Friday, August 12, 2022

Hunger for God


We can be hungry for a lot of things: food, money, status, possessions. There are many things in this fallen world that attract us and create that deep desire for acquisition or the simple satisfaction of basic needs. When you've had a good meal, you feel content. When you've reached a milestone in your career, you feel accomplished. When the real estate agent gives you the keys to your new home, you feel excited and fulfilled. However, when you look deep inside your heart, are you truly satisfied?

 

There is a desire in us to be accepted, loved and protected. All of man’s endeavors can be traced back to this desire. In the end, the greatest desire of man is relationship, and the greatest relationship we have is with God.

 

In the book of Genesis, we learn that God had a very intimate relationship with Adam and Eve. In fact, even after they had sinned and eaten the forbidden fruit, God was walking in the garden looking for them. He was seeking them out; but His heart was broken when He realized what they had done.

 

“When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the LORD God walking about in the garden. So, they hid from the LORD God among the trees. Then the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”   Genesis 3:8-9 NLT

 

Until Jesus redeemed us and reconciled us to Him, we were separated from that most beautiful relationship.

 

As a toddler, I learned that eating food made me feel better when I was sad or lonely. Despite being the youngest of eight children, I felt very isolated in our strict home. To comfort myself, I often stole crackers or slices of bread from our pantry. When I was 8 years old, I broke my arm. I used the sling I had to wear with my cast as a hiding place for the bread I took out of the cupboard. Thankfully, at the same time, my faith in God was beginning to grow and I began to look to Him for comfort. I still struggle with wanting food when I’m emotional, but my relationship with Jesus today fulfills me and gives me peace and contentment. Food will never fill that space in my heart that only God can fill.

 

What do you struggle with? Is it hunger for acceptance or achievement? I can relate to that, too. I believe that one reason I drove myself academically as a child was to receive positive attention from my parents, especially my mother. That desire for acceptance and acknowledgment followed me into adulthood. It took my growing relationship with Jesus to finally realize that, although it is good to work toward excellence for the glory of God, it is not healthy to drive myself for my own gain and accolades.

 

As you study the Word of God, it becomes clear that seeking anything in the world without first seeking God is a fool’s errand. In the end, desiring worldly possessions, money, comfort, and status will leave you empty and dissatisfied. As the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians:

 

“…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:11-13 NIV

 

How can you find this contentment and fulfillment? Make it a priority to spend time each day reading God’s word, even if you only have a few minutes. The natural outpouring of your time with God will be joy, peace and contentment as your desire changes from fulfilling your own needs to wanting to be obedient and share Jesus through your love, actions and activities.

 

If you find it difficult to commit time each day and keep focused while reading the Bible, here are some modern resources for enhancing your quiet time each day:

 

YouVersion Bible App: a comprehensive app that provides dozens of translations of the Bible along with hundreds of reading plans that guide you through the Bible or devotionals on topics such as marriage, work, youth, leadership, prayer and many others.

 

Abide: this app provides guided biblical meditations and prayers. The company also has a YouTube channel with many videos that you can watch or listen to that will help you enter into quiet moments with God.

 

Pray: this app is similar to Abide, but specifically features guided prayers. The prayers are usually only a couple of minutes long.

 

In summary, taking the time to feed your hunger for God is what will bring you the most contentment, joy and peace. If you are constantly pushing yourself for more, driving yourself to succeed, yet are struggling to slow down and be at peace, ask yourself this question, “What am I hungry for?” You will find the answer to that question in the presence of God.

 

 

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


Friday, August 5, 2022

He’s mindful of you

There is a beautiful Psalm in the Bible. It’s a song about how majestic God is. If you have ever thought about how big the world is by studying the galaxies, looking at the vastness of the ocean, or visiting the Grand Canyon it will put into perspective how small we are. 

 

We are 1 out 7.7 billion people on the planet. How insignificant we are when compared to the masses. There are billions of people, millions of stars, and 352 quintillion gallons of water in the ocean! 

 

Yet, the Bible talks about how loved we are. The God who made the galaxies actually thinks about you! Psalm 8, beginning in verse 4, says, 

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.”

The Psalmist sings, “look at all this glory and yet You’ve chosen man as the apple of Your eye!”

God thinks about you. Another Psalm says His thoughts about you outnumber the grains of sand on the shore. 

God isn’t just thinking about you but desires to bless and restore your life. Look at Psalm 8 again. He crowns man with glory and honor, gives him dominion, and puts all things under his feet. 

I know it’s hard to accept because we are our worst critics but God is for you. 

I once heard it said, “the Creator knows His creation best.” That stuck with me. No one knows you better than God. He knows you better than you know yourself. Shouldn’t His thoughts mean more to us than anyone else’s?

That’s why Jesus is so important. We broke our relationship with God through sin. We broke oneness with God. Oneness with God comes with no guilt, shame or condemnation. That’s what the book of Genesis tells us. Adam and Eve lived in the garden with no shame or guilt. They lived in an optimal place with God. 

Jesus came to restore our sonship back to us. John 1:12 says this: But to all who did receive him (Jesus), who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

Aren’t you tired of trying to figure out your purpose or how your life is important when compared to the masses? Well, our Creator knows you best. He knows how to use you the best because no one knows creation better than the Creator. 

I think you need relief from your thoughts and the thoughts of others. God’s thoughts about you are the most accurate and will restore true life to you. 

today, I beg you, come to God, ask for forgiveness and allow Him to restore the relationship with you. 

He thinks about you. You’re the apple of His eye. He has the best thoughts about you. He knows your purpose and your importance. Stop looking elsewhere; you’ll never find it there. 

Blessings,

Pastor Chad Fagundes 

 

Chad Fagundes is Men’s and Outreach Pastor at Koinonia Church in Hanford, CA. He can be reached at chad@kchanford.com or 559-582-1528.

Friday, July 29, 2022

I can be unoffendable?


I read a lot! One of my primary personality traits is learning. My daily reading might be for pleasure (historical fiction) or for spiritual and leadership growth. I find myself reading things such as the Bible, of course – but also, articles, news, devotions, and blogs. By the way, I consider audio versions “reading”, too.

 

I recently ran across a blog by Brant Hansen, based on his book, Unoffendable – How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better. He proposes that our life can be transformed by merely choosing to be unoffendable.

 

What?! His blog gave me a lot to think about. I asked myself, “Really, how often am I offended?” I needed a definition.

 

Offended - feeling or expressing hurt, indignation, or irritation because of a perceived wrong or insult

 

The more I reflect on this, and if I’m being honest, I’m probably offended often. It might be in small, annoyed ways, not huge insulted, outraged ways, but still . . . quite often.

 

As Christians, aren’t we justified in our anger at certain people for certain things? For example, how about those who hurt children, abuse the elderly, traffickers, murderers, rapists, and so on. Aren’t we allowed ‘righteous anger’ in these situations?

 

As it turns out, only God is allowed to have ‘righteousness anger’ as well as judgment and vengeance and a number of other things that only He is qualified to have. We can trust Him with these big things because His character merits it. His righteous anger does not come from a place of self-defense. His anger always comes from a place of desiring that we follow His ways because He loves and cares for us. Our anger does not. He is perfect. He is God. We are not.

 

This is how God says it:

James 1:19-20 – “. . . let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” ESV

 

Ephesians 4:26 – “When you are angry, do not sin, and be sure to stop being angry before the end of the day.” NCV

 

Ephesians 4:31 – “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” NIV

 

Colossians 3:18 – “But now also put these things out of your life: anger, bad temper, doing or saying things to hurt others, and using evil words when you talk. NCV

 

Jesus says it this way, ‘Love your enemies.’ and ‘Pray for those who persecute you.’

 

We should forfeit our right to be offended and to hang on to anger. It’s not actually our right to do so in the first place – it’s God’s.

 

I finally had to admit that I have definitely been an offensive person – to God and to others. That was hard to swallow. I have done and said things to people that I am sure have hurt, angered, insulted and upset them. To say nothing of how I’ve offended God throughout my life.

 

We are human. Anger and offense are human emotions. So, what do we do with these emotions that the Bible acknowledges will occur? We don’t keep them. We recognize the horrible injustice around us and we grieve it. We grieve the evil and the sin of our world. We pray and we act against it. Yes, we are called to defend the defenseless and to protect the vulnerable and to help the victims. Yet, it is possible to do these things without being angry and offended.

 

This requires great effort on our part but that’s where God comes in. His Holy Spirit brings these things to our attention so that we can become more like Christ every day. It is part of our growth.

 

In recent weeks, with this concept in my mind, I can attest to the difference it can make. When my adult child snapped at me, when an inattentive driver nearly hit me, and when I found myself annoyed with another person, I stopped and chose to be unoffended. It’s amazing how it cleared my mind, allowed me to keep my peace and joy, and simply forgot about the things that would typically stick with me for a long while. I am choosing, or at least trying, to be unoffendable.

 

According to Hansen, as Christians, “We should be the most refreshingly unoffendable people on the planet.” I agree, sir.

 

According to God’s Word, “…seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God.” (Micah 6:8)

 

 

Sylvia Gaston is Family Ministry Pastor at Koinonia Church in Hanford, CA. She can be reached at sylvia@kchanford.com or 559-582-1528.

 

 


Friday, July 22, 2022

Expect His Glory


Expectations can change everything. A few years ago, my family planned a week away to the beautiful Lake Tahoe. It was a beautiful adventure that was timed during the fire season. This left the normally breathtaking views to be nearly completely covered by a thick off-white cloud of smoke. It was still very beautiful, very fun, and a wonderful time with family.

 

But, many of our family members had researched Tahoe before we left and, therefore, had a slightly different picture in their heads. This set up many people to be a bit underwhelmed and therefore disappointed…by Tahoe! Even with the smoke, it was one of the most beautiful lakes I’ve ever seen, but I had lower expectations. I knew the smoke was there. I expected it, therefore I was less surprised and it was easier for me to catch the beauty.

           

I recently read the story of Lazarus who was raised from the dead by Jesus. Lazarus’ sisters, and even His disciples, had mixed expectations. They knew the Lord Jesus loved their brother and could do miracles, so they knew He could intervene. But they had no idea He would delay. Actually, Jesus delayed intentionally so that “they may believe.” It was for a strengthening of their faith that Jesus allowed that suffering to take place. He even shared in that suffering. He was not immune to it. He wept right alongside the siblings.

           

I believe that the expectations of Lazarus’ sisters for WHO Jesus was kept them from sinful responses to their loss. They knew He was the resurrection and the life and that Lazarus would return in the end. This Hope in the end and this Hope in Jesus allowed them to suffer and not blame God.

           

It is tempting to blame our trials on God, because we know God uses trials for our good…so it seems like He is the source. But God is the source of our healing, our strength, and the hope for future with Him. If we believe God will keep us from trials, or keep us from suffering, we set ourselves up for unmet expectations. Unmet expectations lead people away from walking with the Lord. I never want my struggles to hurt my faith. I want my struggles to strengthen my resolve to seek more of Jesus!

 

So, there are three things I can expect:

-Suffering

-God to be present

-God to be glorified

 

Romans 5 tells us that suffering produces perseverance, character and hope. I love that what the enemy uses to break us down, God uses to build us up!  God doesn’t want His followers to be weak. He does allow us to be sharpened and refined. Therefore, I can expect trials of many kinds.

           

Psalms 121 describes God, “He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” He’s not taking a break from keeping things running. Even in the vilest of situations, which seem like pure evil, we can be confident and live expectant that even in that darkness, God is present.

 

Just as Jesus declared in John 11, “God will be glorified!” He recognized that the death of Lazarus was going to lead to the miracle of life.

 

I want my life to point to the glory of God. I can choose to allow God to be glorified THROUGH me or DESPITE me. I choose through me. I will stay close to Jesus, and strong in trials, allowing God to receive the glory for carrying me through it all. God is glorified even in the difficult things. Plus, we know God is victorious over all things in the end, even all of the effects of sin. This is the expectation we can live with today.

 

How do these expectations change the way you see your today?

 

 

Candace Cortez is Executive Pastor at Koinonia Church in Hanford, CA. She can be reached at candace@kchanford.com or 559-582-1528.

 

Friday, July 8, 2022

Winning in the Battles of Life

We hear quite a lot about the idea of overcoming and winning in life. At the end of movies, the good guy wins and the movie is over. “They all lived happily ever after”’ is a great idea. However, the winning in life is not just about achieving a goal, like so many motivational clips, songs and memes would tell us. In Romans 8, the apostle Paul reminds us that, yes, we are to win but that is not all. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”   -Romans 8:37

There is more than the conquering. Let’s look at the three levels of fully winning in life. In the Old Testament, Joshua was asked to lead Israel into the promised land. To do that, they would need to fight battles, but there was more than just the fight.

Taking the Land

In chapters 1-12 of the book of Joshua, we see the battles fought and they actually won the land. Just as in our own battles, there was struggle and some defeat but, with trust in the Lord, they had ultimate victory. This was a model to victory that was employed often for the children of Israel. It went like this: prayer, then worship, then the fight.

If we want to win the battle, we need to seek the Lord, praise Him for all we have, then move into the conflict. This was a model that never lost. Now, victory does not always look the way we think it should but we must trust in God’s plan.

Allotting the Land

In Joshua, chapters 13-21, we see how God had given the land in different ways to different tribes of Israel. So many times when we have blessing, and we feel like we have won, we seek to utilize the winning for our own good. We sometimes forget to ask God what He thinks about what we’ve won. Think about the blessings of life. What if we received them just to give them away; to bless others? What blessings have we received and have yet to enquire God about? It doesn’t always mean we would need to give it away but perhaps, ask Him how it is meant to be used? Talk to God about what He has given - our jobs, money, family, possessions. What does God think?

Retaining the Land

In the last chapters of the book of Joshua, 22-24, we see the struggle to retain the land given to the Israelites. When the winning is done how do we keep the blessing? This is not always an easy thing to do. Often, we are so focused on gaining things that we are not focused on how we keep it. I’ve heard many champions say that winning the championship was the easy part but keeping it was the struggle. There are always others who want what we have. The trick is to earn that blessing every day that we have it. The children of Israel had the same struggle we have . . . complacency. They began to compromise and not worry about upholding the honor of being given such an awesome gift. We win by achieving, not once, but every day.

We are more than conquerors. We’re meant to conquer, maintain and retain what the Lord has given to us. This is true winning in the battles of life.

 

Rene Solis is Director of Koinonia School of Ministry, a ministry of Koinonia Church in Hanford, CA. He can be reached at ksm@kcfchurch.org or by calling 559-582-1528.

Friday, July 1, 2022

A Dangerous Book: The Holy Bible

 

There are several places in scripture, when the Bible refers to itself as a weapon, specifically, as a sword. One reference is from Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Another reference is Ephesians 6:17, “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”. This is why I can say the Bible is a dangerous book! I believe scripture is powerful and can be a source of much harm if ignored or used unfaithfully. But I also believe it’s a source of harm to the enemy when we, as believers, know how to use this spiritual weapon well!

 

However, the validity of scripture is under intense scrutiny, causing many believers to not be sure if certain things from scripture really matter. Is it really important to change a lifestyle or base my decisions if this book is not 100% legitimate? What a challenge to our faith! I want to encourage anyone who has been listening to the criticism and has found themselves pausing and questioning whether the Bible can be trusted. YES! We can trust that the Word of God is trustworthy and divinely written and preserved for us to have today. It’s a miracle 1000 times over based on how God gave us the text and has kept it for us for generations.

 

     
Here are a few reasons why we can trust that the Bible is divinely organized and given to us by God:

 

1. Divine Origin of scripture is supported by prophecy. The Bible was written over a span of 1500 years. In that time, there were thousands of prophecies about future events. Many of these prophecies have come true while others are still yet to come to pass. There are 322 specific prophecies in the old testament about Jesus Christ. The chances of even just 8 of those prophecies coming to pass is 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000! So far, hundreds of prophecies have already been fulfilled. What a miracle - God’s word being given to the authors of the text!

 

2. Divine Origin of scripture is supported by science and history. There are hundreds of cities and leaders mentioned in scripture. There’s literally an entire section on the histories of God’s people in antiquity. Many of these cities no longer exist. As archeologists continue to discover old cities and artifacts, they are simply confirming the details and descriptions given by scripture. Nelson Glueck, a Jewish archeologist, is quoted, confirming, “It may be stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference.” This is amazing! Scientifically, the miracles in the Bible are always going to be a challenge (because miracles are things that are supernatural…which is against nature)! However, the Bible, while written way before certain scientific discoveries, also gives clues as to the divine inspiration of God. He allowed clues about the planet that were not known until recent centuries. Such as the story about Matthew Maury, an oceanographer from the 1800s. While bedridden from an illness, he listening to his son read the Bible during his downtime. While he listened to Psalms 8:8, Maury noticed the expression “paths of the seas”. Once he recovered, Maury went looking for these paths and, as a result, discovered the continental currents.

 

3. Divine origin is supported by the consistency of the text. We currently have a large amount of evidence to suggest that what we are reading in scripture is very close to the original manuscripts. The New Testament manuscripts that we have are only around 50 years older than the originally written documents and we have more than 5,000 copies to verify content. This is incredible considering other historical documents such as Plato’s work, Teralogies, is more than 1200 years removed from the originals and we only have 7 copies. Yet we use this in textbooks as primary sources.

 

4. Divine origin is supported by authorship. The Bible is comprised of 66 books, written by 40 different authors in 3 different languages. The coordination required for this to happen over a span of 1500 years at a time when documentation was difficult to produce and distribute is another miracle! All of these different authors sharing a story of God’s love, personality, and plan for His creation. The fact that they actually make sense when used together is a spectacular example of God’s inspiration.

 

I pray that this short list refreshes your faith today. We may be believers because so much of what we trust is unseen. But we are not believers without evidence. The word of God is alive and active and able to be followed! I pray you spend a few moments studying the nature and voice of God in scripture today.

 

 

Candace Cortez is Executive Pastor at Koinonia Church in Hanford, CA. She can be reached at candace@kchanford.com or 559-582-1528.


Friday, June 24, 2022

Jesus offers a clean slate

Have you ever heard the phrase, “let bygones be bygones”? I’ve heard it in movies and TV shows, usually when the protagonist teams up with someone and they get over some previous squabble to move ahead with a plot.

 

These are always cool moments in movies, but they are even better in real life. Because I am human, I have wronged many people in my life, from family, friends, and even my wife. I think that can be said about all of us. We are not perfect and we must interact with each other every day. But when we ask for forgiveness, we can learn and move on with our day.

 

When it comes to God, however, I believe that sometimes we think that God remembers all our faults and, as a result, we must prove ourselves to Him. I remember when I was a young Christian, I used to approach prayer with shame, not really knowing if God would listen to me because I felt so embarrassed of the dreadful things I had done. I have talked to people who don’t go to church because they believe they are beyond saving. I’ve heard them say, “Oh, I can’t go to church. I’ve done too many bad things.” You might know somebody like this, or maybe this is you.

 

When the prophet Ezekiel spoke to the people of God, he had a lot to say about sin. In chapter 18 of his book, we read the following:

 

“But if the wicked person turns from all the sins he has committed, keeps all my statutes, and does what is just and right, he will certainly live; he will not die.” - Ezekiel 18:21 CSB

 

This chapter has a lot to do with personal responsibility for our sins, but this verse stands out. It gives us hope. It gave hope to those who knew that they were wicked, or those who are being told by Ezekiel that they were doing wicked things. God provided a way out of their sinful nature. God gave them hope.

This chapter in Ezekiel deals with the sins of parents and the sins of children. God makes it clear that every generation will be responsible for their own actions. I believe this also gives us hope today.

 

Personally speaking, my family bloodline is not a clean one. I come from a line of liars, rebels, and even criminals. That doesn’t mean that I am destined for these things. Through the blood of Jesus, I am free to make my own decisions and I will be held responsible for those decisions.

 

We see this generational-sin mindset occur again in the New Testament, specifically in John, chapter 9:

 

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” Jesus answered. “This came about so that God’s works might be displayed in him.” - John 9:2-3 CSB

 

Once again, the decisions of previous generations do not have to continue with us, but it is our personal decisions that can stop those generational sins, habits, or tendencies.

 

I love the story above because it shows the human nature inside all of us. We see something wrong and we quickly try to make sense of it. When the disciples ask Jesus who is responsible for this person being blind, they just want to know who to blame, maybe even to have pity on the person. But Jesus is interested in showing His glory. Jesus is interested in changing the narrative. Jesus is interested in changing our perspective and getting us to understand that we can change our surroundings.

 

Jesus offers you a clean slate today. If previous decisions are holding you back, or you think you are stuck due to decisions that were made prior to your birth, let me tell you that God is interested in a fresh start for you. You do not have to be defined by your bloodline, or by the actions of your previous generations. You certainly don’t have to continue with certain beliefs that may not be correct. We all have some traditions that are good and others that are not so good. With Jesus Christ, we can start fresh and experience a new life with Him today.

 

 

Mauricio Paredes is Junior High Pastor at Koinonia Church in Hanford, CA. He can be reached at manny@kchanford.com or at 559-582-1528.