Sunday, October 18, 2020

Are You A Good Friend?

Do you consider yourself to be a good friend? A good friend is often considered someone loyal, accepting, and one who invests time in others. In my life, I have had friends that were good friends for only a season and I also have friendships that have survived years and difficult seasons. Looking back, I realize that many of the friendships that didn’t last were simply superficial.

 

I desire to be a good friend to those in my life, so I looked to scripture to help me ground my friendships in Biblical principles. Jesus spent most of His 33 years on earth living among the people and He had friends. You know that verse in the Bible that simply says, “Jesus wept.”? He wept because his dear friend, Lazarus, had died. Jesus lived and loved people on earth and I want to learn how to be a good and loving friend from His example, not the world’s.

 

Put Your Friends Before Yourself

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” -Philippians 2:4-7

 

Jesus came to earth and spent His time here humbly serving others. We need to humble ourselves in our friendships and have hearts to serve our friends. Often, many look at friendships as a transaction. What can I get out of this? How can this friendship make me happier? This approach is the opposite of what Jesus embodied. Pray for your friends and serve them with no expectation of return. 

 

Love Unconditionally and Fully

“When Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.…[He] rose from supper… poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet.” -John 13:1, 4-5

 

What could be a greater act of unconditional love than to humble yourself before others as Jesus did at this moment? He deserved to be exalted and yet He washed His disciples’ feet. Not only that, He washed the feet of those present who He knew would betray Him and deny Him. Can you say that you serve and love others this fully? Especially those who do not benefit you?

 

Correct Lovingly

“…she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.'” -Luke 10:40-42

 

Martha felt justified in her complaint to Jesus about her sister. She was doing all of the work and she was frustrated! Jesus sweetly corrects her and points out the flaw in her motivations. Martha worried about the things of this world but Mary knew the time spent with Him was more important. Jesus could have shamed her or admonished her sharply but He chose to lovingly correct. We are also called to lovingly (keyword) correct our friends. This does not involve running to others to complain about how they’ve got it wrong. It involves doing the hard work of taking the time to build a relationship and a safe place for correction. This also involves being secure enough to take correction from friends who do it lovingly with Him in mind.

 

The world shows us a superficial view of what friendships should look like. The Word shows us that friendships should be selfless, loving, and a place to build each other up. Friendships grounded with these traits will not be superficial and will be pleasing to Him.

 

Justine Medeiros  

Children’s Ministry Director

Content In All Circumstances

Several years ago, I wrote an article about contentment. Recently, the issue came to mind again. This may be God prompting me to check myself.

 

I honestly don’t mind conversations with others about how coronavirus is impacting their lives. I am truly interested. Sometimes it even includes things that we can laugh and joke about. I just hope that I’m not complaining more at a time when I should be contemplating more.

 

Contentment is defined as a state of happiness and appreciation. The antidote to discontent is thankfulness.

 

Discontented is a horrible way to go through life. It brings depression, stress, and ugly attitudes.

 

Contentment, on the other hand, brings about health and happiness. We have to want it! We have to fight for it!

 

The book of Philippians in the Bible contains only 4 chapters, but is powerful and chock full of wisdom for us today. Written by the apostle Paul as a letter to the church in Philippi, he writes this letter from prison because he has been arrested for preaching about Jesus. Paul was one of the biggest persecutors of Christians before he encountered Jesus. From that point on, he couldn’t stop telling people about Him – even to the point of imprisonment and ultimately, death.

 

Paul thanks them for their concern and their support of him. He states, I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (4:11-13)

 

Did you catch that? “…in whatever circumstances I am.”

 

When I wrote about contentment in 2017, our circumstances were much different than in 2020. So, how do I find contentment TODAY in the midst of all this?!? The Word of God is clear. It never changes. It is alive and beneficial for yesterday, today and whatever tomorrow holds. Here’s what God says is the key to contentment . . .

 Always be filled with joy in the Lord. I will say it again. Be filled with joy.” (4:4 ERV)

Let everyone see that you are gentle and kind . . . Don’t worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks for what you have. And because you belong to Christ Jesus, God’s peace will stand guard over all your thoughts and feelings. His peace can do this far better than our human minds.” (4:5-7 ERV)

This is good stuff! He tells us to be filled with joy. He says it again, “Be filled with joy.” Great advice but easier said than done, right? He then goes on to tell us how to be filled with joy . . . even in 2020.

Brothers and sisters, continue to think about what is good and worthy of praise. Think about what is true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected. And do what you learned and received from me—what I told you and what you saw me do. And the God who gives peace will be with you.” (4:8-9 ERV)

It bears repeating: Contentment is a state of happiness and appreciation. The antidote to discontent is thankfulness.

 

Two things you can do today:

1.     Every time you find yourself grumbling or complaining – in your head or out loud – immediately begin thinking about what you have to be thankful for and appreciate.

2.     Read Philippians 4 often as a reminder of the secrets to contentment. (If you don’t have a Bible, Google it in an easy to read version.)

 

Peace!

 

 

Sylvia Gaston 

Pastor of Connection and Development

Friday, October 9, 2020

Residue Free

God’s word is alive and active, breathing new life and meaning every time I read it! I am grateful for this as I read through scriptures during a season that is unlike any other that I have experienced. As I read stories that I first learned in elementary school, they come alive with a freshness from our Savior. One such story is the telling of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace (Daniel 3).

 

I have personally experienced the enemy doing the work of division in our community. The lines of division are all over the place: how you feel about school closures, church closures, COVID in general, how you stand politically, how you feel about the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’, who you feel is to blame for the wildfires, and how we are to process and understand end time events or signs. All of these scenarios, and others, breed opportunities for offense.

 

As I read the story of these three servants of the Lord, my threshold of offense gets smaller. Here are some thoughts to encourage us during this season of interesting trials and to help eliminate the residue of offense from our hearts.

 

When reading this story, the first point that connects to today is found in Daniel 3:16, when the three men respond to the angry king: “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.”

 

There have been many moments when accusations, or confrontations, lead me to feel defensive. I want to be clearly understood, and if I’m even more honest, I want to be clearly vindicated of any wrongdoing. I want to be seen as just in my actions, thoughts, and feelings. This can lead to people holding on to statements far too long as we seek an opportunity to defend ourselves, rather than to move forward in relationship with that person.

 

The reason these men did not need to defend themselves is because they were confident with Whom they stood: God, the ultimate defender. As we keep ourselves in check, we will not need to check other people. Holding on to the scorecard of who has been more just, therefore needing a proper defense, will only separate families, friends, marriages, and churches.

 

As these young men walked out of the fire, totally unscathed, God’s work was the final word. When we seek Jesus, and serve His people in the way He’s asked us to love people, His power of healing and transformation will be the thing that changes minds. It will not often be our social media posts or eloquently worded arguments.

 

I am praying daily for the Lord to give me the right words to say in areas of conflict. The day I stop praying for the Lord to work, and assume I actually have all the right answers, is when I have decided to take justice and righteousness into my own hands. Let’s be a humble people who daily showcase how God’s hand works. Sometimes this means being brave to share your own story. Sometimes it means being brave and forgiving those who haven’t apologized. Sometimes it means allowing someone to have the final word, even if you still think they are wrong.

 

The final element of this story is how the young men emerged from those flames: without even the smell of fire on them. I am praying that this season not only doesn’t break relationships, but that there isn’t even the smell of division or brokenness on God’s people. My prayer is that we come through this season unscathed and without even the residue of what we went through, other than the miraculous testimony of what we went through.

 

In order to do this, and to keep ourselves from the stench of bitterness, resentment, division, or animosity, we must hold on to a few things. We are to forgive quickly. We are to be slow to speak and quick to listen. We are to assume the God knows best and not that we know best. We are to speak kindly (to a fault!) of those who have hurt us. We are to pray for those who have hurt us to not only do well, but do more abundantly well than we can ask or imagine. And we must eliminate the space where laments can become slander.

 

You may be going through the fire right now, but you can come out without even the smell of that experience on you! You can praise in EVERY season. Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus and our hearts residue-free in order to love both His Church and His entire creation well!

 

Candace Cortez

Executive

Thursday, October 1, 2020

The Changing Church During COVID-19

“Get out of bed and come watch church!”, I yell down the hall to our 18-year-old daughter who has never been a morning person. She eventually comes down the hall, half asleep, and slumps into an easy chair in the living room. Meanwhile, my husband is getting a second cup of coffee as I hook up the TV to a device so that we can watch church service online on a Sunday.

 

Does any of this sound familiar to you? I’m pretty sure it does because church online is how most of us have been doing church since March 2020. There were a couple of fleeting moments when the church reopened and we could attend services in the building but, even then, the attendance was limited, and we had to wear masks.

 

Just a few weeks later, the COVID-19 infection rates spiked in California and the guidelines from the health department changed. Once again, the building became empty and we found ourselves back in our living rooms on Sunday mornings.

 

Like everything else, our church life has been disrupted. Not interrupted but disrupted. There’s a big difference. We haven’t stopped church. In fact, in almost every way, church has continued. We continue to receive a weekly message given by our pastors that guides us through the week. Our church (Koinonia Church in Hanford, California) meets, via Zoom, on Sunday mornings before services begin to pray together.  More recently, our small groups have begun meeting for the fall session online or in homes (following state safety guidelines). And beginning this Sunday, our church will start having live 9am services outside on the church lawn – socially distanced, of course.

 

Services to our community have also continued. For example, the Kings Pantry food program has been meeting the increased need for families who are struggling financially as a direct result of COVID-19.

 

The church experience may be different right now, but church continues. Not because it’s an institution or a building, but because church is people.

 

Isn’t that the way of the gospel? When you look back through church history, you can see that whenever the church has been disrupted, the people would find ways to continue. The early church secretly met in the catacombs beneath Rome. The symbol of a fish became a message to others that a home or building was a place where Christians could meet during times of persecution. During the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, the churches closed for a time, yet found ways to reach their congregations. Many newspapers across the country printed the sermons and announcements from local churches so that people could worship at home.

 

We are blessed to live in a time when technology provides many ways to worship away from the church building. We look forward to the day when we can come together again in community and worship side by side. For now, we praise God in the midst of the storm and keep our eyes upon Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

 

“For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”

Matthew 18:20 (NLT)

 

“And so the LORD’s fame will be celebrated in Zion,

His praises in Jerusalem,

When multitudes gather together

And kingdoms come to worship the LORD.”

Psalms 102:21-22 (NLT)

 

Paula Aiton is a worship leader at Koinonia Church and a freelance writer, musician and artist. Her blog, God’s Glory Girl can be found at godsglorygirl.com.


Actual Rest

These past few months have been tiring. Well, to be honest, very tiring. It seems that so many things are changing at once: having to adapt our lives, families, jobs, church, and leisure activities. Some of us can’t blow off steam like we used to or relieve stress in the methods that we were relying so much on. I can’t wait for the day to have my family and friends over for a barbecue. I keep telling them that ribs are amazing when they’re cooked in a smoker, but until I’m able to share some with them, I’ll just have to eat the whole rack by myself.

Being tired, however, is not anything new. Life has always been a roller coaster that has its ups and downs, and seasons of busyness and rest seem to always come as intended. But lately, it’s been a little different. I’ve been asking God, when will we be able to rest? But I don’t necessarily mean physical rest; we need to rest our minds, rest our souls, and be at rest with our families.

Lately, I’ve been reminding myself of Matthew 11:28; "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (NIV).

I’m going to be honest with you, when I read this passage, the first Word that comes to my mind is: How?

I don’t doubt God, I believe and trust in what He says, but the human side of me just has to ask that question: how? I’m a practical guy and clear direction works well with me. So I ask Jesus, how can I obtain this rest that you promise?

I believe the answer to that is in the following two verses; “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:29-30).

The Message translation puts it this way:

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.”

God knows the pressures of life. He knows when that next bill is coming up. He knows the results of that physical. He knows just how complicated relationships can be. But even in the middle of all this, He says to follow Him and He will give us rest. I’m a firm believer that if we put God first, He would take care of - not only us - but those around us (read Matthew 6:33).

So I encourage you now to put God first. In spite of everything that has happened, God is still in full control as He always has been. Yesterday, today, and forever, God is still on His throne. He is not shaken. He is not stirred.

In the words of an old hymn:
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus
look full in His wonderful face”
(...and I love this part...)
“and the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace”.

 

Mauricio Paredes is the Junior High Pastor

Monday, September 14, 2020

To engage or not to engage; that is the question.

If you find yourself sighing, shaking your head or rolling your eyes about things people are saying and the way some people are behaving, you’re not alone. We seem to be in a very divisive time. You may be at odds with your neighbors, co-workers, family, the people on your social media feed or even the people you see in the news.

 

This can prompt a modified version of ‘fight or flight’ in us. You may feel compelled to engage in the debate or do the opposite and simply bury your head in the sand in avoidance. I know I have experienced both extremes. One moment, I’m ready to respond strongly to that dumb post or write a letter to a network television host (I know how silly that sounds now). The next moment, I’m ready to completely walk away from all the medias.

 

Don’t do either. Now, more than ever, we need mature, Christ-following individuals to stand strong and model grace and respect despite our differences. We might need to first get our emotions in check and our heads in a good place before we do, but we cannot stand idly by and not contribute to the important issues of our day.

 

We need to do what Jesus did when dealing with difficult people. He never let people fluster Him. He asked lots of questions which allowed people to feel heard and also added insight to the conversation. And, most importantly, He knew when to silently walk away.

 

In Luke 4:28-30 in the Bible, we read of a time when Jesus was in the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth. After He amazes the crowd with His knowledge of Scripture, He proceeds to anger them with something He says. It says, “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff.”

 

This is a very tricky and divisive situation with strong disagreements taking place. What does Jesus do? Does he argue and shout and become emotional? No. the Bible says, “But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.”

 

Instead of flying off the handle, all self-righteous and superior, we need to learn how to engage in disagreements with patience and respect and know when to be quiet and simply walk away (or scroll on by). This is called discernment.

 

Discernment is sensitive judgment and understanding. Spiritual discernment is when God guides us to the best decisions. We all could use more of that! Romans 12:2 puts it this way, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good, acceptable and perfect.”

 

We can ask God for discernment - in our daily prayers or in the heat of the moment. We may need to take a deep breath and ask God how He would like us to handle our current conversation or situation.

 

Jesus’ brother, James taught, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” -James 4:17-18

 

Stay engaged, but do so in the way Jesus engaged: in a mature, respectful and peaceful manner. You may even bring about some righteousness in the process.

 

Sylvia Gaston

Pastor of Connection and Development

Friday, September 11, 2020

Part Of The Solution

Ok, 2020. I see you there. Surprising us each month with a new set of events to navigate. Anyone else feel less and less surprised by all of the craziness of this season?

 

My family and I pray together every evening and the list of things we pray for is growing longer and longer. We are praying for people who have COVID-19 or are a part of fighting COVID-19. We are praying against racism and for healing between racial groups. We are praying for political divides to not result in division in God’s house, and for who the leader of America will be for the next 4 years. We are praying for those who have lost their jobs, businesses, or savings during this season. We are praying for those who have grown increasingly depressed or alone. We are praying for teachers, students and administrators in California’s schools who are attempting to do education in a way they possibly didn’t sign up for. We are praying for the protests happening across our country, that they would result in loving, fruitful conversations and not more destruction.  We are praying for members of law enforcement, that they would be committed to serving and protecting and figure out how to do that in the current climate, all while staying mentally and physically healthy. We are praying for victims of abuse who are potentially extra vulnerable. We are praying for kids who have been separated from their families to be returned safely. We are praying…praying...and praying.

           

Today, I woke up with this reminder from God’s word. Matthew 5:14-16 reminds us: “14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

 

I have heard it said, by some, that the Church is part of the problem in a lot of these issues. I know that, to a certain extent, this is true. We are all subject to sin at times. But, God’s plan is to use the Church to bring light to dark places. To bring flavor when the zest of life has turned acidic. To bring solutions, given by the power of the Holy Spirit and His miraculous ways, when there seems to be no way forward.

           

Here are a couple of ways to bring the light:

            -Perspective - Do you see God working through all of the events of the day? Do you take each breath with the understanding that the breaths we take are all a gift? Do you understand how the things we do, or do not do, impact things spiritually? We are called to live with a heavenly perspective.

            -Perseverance and patience – We cannot allow the troubles of this world to shake us out of the fight. We are not called to do nothing until something better happens. We are builders, disciple makers, healers, and worshipers. We are not guaranteed that the good will come in our lifetime. But we are guaranteed that God wins it all. Waiting for God to move is actually a common part of His plans.

            -Deeper Relationships – People have always been a priority to Jesus. People need to be a priority to us as His followers. How we step out and engage with people is incredibly important. When you reach out, especially when led by the Holy Spirit, it can change things in a big way. 

 

So, I am calling all Christians, members of my family, let’s be a part of the solution! Let’s reach out and love people. Let’s be victorious in this season and allow other people to share in those blessings. Let’s stay engaged and involved and not afraid to shift the light towards our savior. He can make a way. He wants to use us to do it. Do not give up on prayer. Faith can move a mountain and there are some mountains that need to be moved! You are a part of the solution because you represent the Savior of the world!

 

Candace Cortez

Executive Pastor

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Rhythms and Routines

Recently, for the first time in five months, I took my wife out to dinner! Our regular date night is something that we have highly valued over twenty years of marriage. It has been one of the regular rhythms we have intentionally built into our relationship.

The dinner itself was not the greatest. We had to sit outside at a table that was in a terrible spot. They brought the wrong order. The food was cold. But it didn’t matter as I sat across from the love of my life and we chatted about mostly nothing. 

 

A missing rhythm had been restored and I felt things click back into place once again.

 

We are creatures of habit. We like our routines, even if we hate our routines. What I mean is, the routines in our life give us a sense of stability. Even if we don’t like getting up early to go to work or commuting to school, the regularity of those routines forms a structure of stability in our lives. 

 

When routines are interrupted, our stress level increases because our comfort and security go down. I’m so much better prepared mentally and emotionally for a challenging meeting, if I’ve gone through my normal morning routine. But if that routine gets interrupted or I feel rushed or a pipe breaks in my house and I have to sleep somewhere else...suddenly what was going to be a challenging meeting now becomes overwhelming.

 

Well, I don’t know about you, but I think it is fair to say the last six months of our lives has messed with our rhythms!

 

Much of the regularity of our life has been destroyed. Many people’s work schedules have been interrupted. Our kids’ school schedules have been completely turned upside down. Things as normal as going to the grocery store and, yes, going out to eat have become foreign to us.

 

This has left many of us feeling highly stressed, confused, and angry. Things we would normally have been able to take in stride, now threaten to break us. We have found ourselves expecting the worst and our worries seem to come to fruition daily.

 

What are we to do? 

 

Friends, we have to re-establish healthy rhythms in our lives. In the midst of chaos, healthy routines will help you weather the storms all around. 

 

It’s time to re-establish family dinner time. We must create boundaries around our consumption of media. We have to regularly shut off our phones and screens. And we must fight to connect regularly with Father God — getting on our knees, spending time connecting with Him and reading His Word.  

 

What rhythms and routines have you lost in this season? It’s time to start building them back in! The pastors of Kings County would love to help you build a healthy routine of connecting with God. Often a worship service can be a powerful first step. Churches are meeting online (and some outside) all over our community, perhaps your first routine to be re-established would be getting back to the Father. 

 

I already feel the stress melting away.

 

Andrew Cromwell

Lead Pastor

Friday, August 21, 2020

This is grace. This is Jesus

Have you ever wondered what it takes to be saved? Like your soul being saved forever? If you have, I may have the answer you've been searching for. 

 

Scriptures in the Bible say that we are saved by grace, and that grace is the undeserved favor of God. It means He reached out to, and set up a way for, you to be saved.

 

You see, God's heart is for people but the bridge in which He reaches people is love and grace. He requires no first steps from the people He is wanting to save. Jesus simply wants a response. A response to a free gift; the most beautiful gift anyone could ever receive - salvation.

 

God is not out to get us. He is simply waiting for us to return home. To turn around from our sinful ways and turn to Him. 

 

There's a parable in the book of Luke that tells a story of two sons who had a rich father. One day, the youngest son asked for his inheritance and the father graciously obliged and gave it to him. The young son then went off to a foreign land and lived lavishly and spent all of his money on partying and prostitutes. After a while, he found himself in a rather awful spot, broke and broken. He found a job where he would feed pigs, but this job paid so poorly that he actually started eating the pig food because it was all he could find to eat.

 

Then a light bulb went off in his head and he thought he could go back home and beg his dad to be a servant. He figured he screwed up so badly that he wouldn’t even think about trying to be his son anymore. Scripture goes on to record that, as he went on home, the father saw him from far away and ran to him. He hugged him, kissed him and threw a party. The father was overjoyed with the return of his son, so much so, that he overlooked and forgave the wrong he had done. He celebrated the fact that his son returned instead of scolding his son for leaving.

 

This is grace. This is Jesus. 

 

And this is exactly how Jesus sees us. He is looking for the people He has died for. He is searching and when He sees them, even at a great distance, He runs to them. Not to put them down, but to lift them up. Not to condemn and scold them, but to restore and celebrate life with them. This is the love that emulates from the heart of God. This is the DNA that He puts into us when we get saved. We are called to reconcile the sinner to the savior. 

 

 

Cristian Alva

Youth Pastor

Friday, August 14, 2020

Whenever I Feel Off Center

There are times when I don’t feel like myself. When, despite what I know to be true, I find myself getting sucked into what the world says is true. The news, social media feeds, and people I encounter in the store – all begin to rattle my centeredness. Have you ever felt like that – especially lately?

 

Whenever that happens, I have a handful of Bible verses that I pull out of my back pocket to remind myself of who I am and Who is in charge. Philippians 4:8-10, James 1:2-5, 19-21 and Romans 8:20 are but a few of my companion verses. Along with Psalm 139.

Psalm 139 is long but beautiful. Today, I want to share King David’s words, rather than my own, to help you re-center. Read the following – slowly, visualizing how God knows you and feels about you. Read it again and again, if need be, to receive a more truthful perspective of life than what is currently surrounding us.

 

Lord, you know everything there is to know about me.
You perceive every movement of my heart and soul,
and you understand my every thought before it even enters my mind.
You are so intimately aware of me, Lord.
You read my heart like an open book
and you know all the words I’m about to speak
before I even start a sentence!

You know every step I will take before my journey even begins.
You’ve gone into my future to prepare the way,
and in kindness you follow behind me
to spare me from the harm of my past.
With your hand of love upon my life,
you impart a blessing to me.
This is just too wonderful, deep, and incomprehensible!
Your understanding of me brings me wonder and strength.
Where could I go from your Spirit?
Where could I run and hide from your face?
If I go up to heaven, you’re there!
If I go down to the realm of the dead, you’re there too!
If I fly with wings into the shining dawn, you’re there!
If I fly into the radiant sunset, you’re there waiting!
Wherever I go, your hand will guide me;
your strength will empower me.
It’s impossible to disappear from you
or to ask the darkness to hide me,
for your presence is everywhere, bringing light into my night.
There is no such thing as darkness with you.
The night, to you, is as bright as the day;
there’s no difference between the two.
You formed my innermost being, shaping my delicate inside
and my intricate outside,
and wove them all together in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, God, for making me so mysteriously complex!
Everything you do is marvelously breathtaking.
It simply amazes me to think about it!
How thoroughly you know me, Lord!
You even formed every bone in my body
when you created me in the secret place,
carefully, skillfully shaping me from nothing to something.
You saw who you created me to be before I became me!
Before I’d ever seen the light of day,
the number of days you planned for me
were already recorded in your book.
Every single moment you are thinking of me!
How precious and wonderful to consider
that you cherish me constantly in your every thought!
O God, your desires toward me are more
than the grains of sand on every shore!
When I awake each morning, you’re still with me.

God, I invite your searching gaze into my heart.
Examine me through and through;
find out everything that may be hidden within me.
Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares.
See if there is any path of pain I’m walking on,
and lead me back to your glorious, everlasting ways—
the path that brings me back to you. Psalm 139:1-18, 23-24

 

Sylvia Gaston

Pastor of Connection and Development 

sylvia@kchanford.com

 

 

 

Friday, August 7, 2020

Good News In A Challenging Time

By all accounts the sky is falling. The economy is heading in the wrong direction. The virus is filling hospitals to capacity. The election season is as divisive and bitter as ever. Nobody knows what news source is trustworthy and which is totally false. Many people are frustrated, angry, isolated, and worried.

Some have lost their jobs. Others have watched the economy take its toll on their business. Some have found themselves unable to pay their mortgage or credit cards bills.  Still others have lost loved ones to the virus.  And even if none of these things describe your situation, you can't help but be impacted by the rampant fear that has a stranglehold on so many. 

At times like this, one of the few places we can turn to find comfort is in the pages of Scripture. Many times, we fail to recognize the great gifts the Bible holds within its pages. In it, Father God has given us a roadmap for life, a primer on relationships, and a handbook on dealing with downturns and disasters. 

So, before you give up, blow up or run away, let me encourage you with six promises from the King who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, knows no lack and wrote the end of the book.   

Promise #1 — to never leave... 

"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'  Hebrews 13:5 NIV 

Promise #2 — to care for you... 

"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?"  Matthew 6:28-30 NLT 

Promise #3 — to provide for you... 

"Don't worry and ask yourselves, 'Will we have anything to eat? Will we have anything to drink? Will we have any clothes to wear?' Only people who don't know God are always worrying about such things. Your Father in heaven knows that you need all of these. But more than anything else, put God's work first and do what he wants. Then the other things will be yours as well."  Matthew 6:31-33 CEV 

Promise #4 — to give you rest... 

"Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest."  Matthew 11:28 NCV 

Promise #5 — to free you from fear... 

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging."  Psalm 46:1-3 NIV 

Promise #6 — to build your faith... 

"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing." 
James 1:2-4 NLT 

These are just a few of the many promises that God has for His children.  The pastors here in Kings County would love to encourage you with these and more.  This season is different, but God hasn’t changed. Perhaps you’re finding yourself praying for the first time in a long time. Go with it! He will meet you right where you are.

Andrew Cromwell
Lead Pastor
E-mail him at
andrew@kchanford.com or call 559-582-1528.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Feed The Tree


We have a pretty large tree in our front yard that, after some inspection, we suspected had some termite damage. After a few seconds of panic, I called a plant guy to ask how to get rid of the wood-eating pests. I wanted to save our tree but, even more importantly, I didn’t want wood-eating insects setting up permanent residence near my house!


According to this friend, one of the best ways to keep termites out is to keep my tree healthy. A dry, damaged, or dying tree attracts the pests, who crave the dried wood. They don’t actually eat healthy trees. We got to work watering, fertilizing, and removing dead branches. 

 

This same method could be applied to the heart. To protect your heart, and avoid certain things that erode your well-being and spiritual health, you can focus on growing rather than avoiding. Filling rather than emptying. Sometimes, when we are faced with something that needs to change in our lives, we spend an incredible amount of energy trying to eliminate.

 

If I realize I have an addiction to social media, I just try to stay off social media. If I realize some of my friends influence me to make poor choices, I either fight the peer pressure or avoid the friends. If I realize I am spending every evening of a stressful week watching hours of television or drinking too much wine, I try to just cut it out. ‘Just say no’ works for a season. Well, not even a season. More like, the first couple of tries. Ultimately, what I have learned is that what I put IN is much more important than what I take OUT. 

 

Philippians 4:8 tells us 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."

When we spend our time thinking, reading, participating, doing such things as listed above, we will have little time for the less noble fillers. This is feeding the tree. Feed your heart the word of God. Spend time watering it through prayer and healthy relationships. Replace endless scrolling on your social media of choice with painting, learning an instrument, playing a game with a friend. Let’s not focus on eliminating things from our lives. Let’s focus on putting the right things in…and lots of it! 

            

Here’s an additional challenge. When it comes to words, sometimes it takes more positive words to fill than it takes negative words to erode. As we begin to grow the trees of our spirits, by filling our lives with the admirable and praiseworthy, we will change the language we use with ourselves and our people. Know that growth takes time. The leaves of a tree will not grow after a single watering session.

 

It seems like relationships and progress in certain areas can be demolished with one unfiltered phrase or one lapse in judgment. But take heart! God is with us, and is full of Grace for us. Have grace for yourself and those around you. Keep growing your tree by keeping it full of good. Eventually there will be less and less space for the pests.  

 

Candace Cortez,

Executive Pastor