Friday, January 7, 2022

It’s Time To Pray

 I am convinced that we are at a crucial time in history; a time when we will look back and notice that this is when our world really changed.

I hope to look back and see that, despite the uncertainty of the times, I was not swayed, I replaced fear with faith, and was emboldened to a greater awareness and witness for Jesus.

2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.”

I want Him to find my heart loyal to Him.

I am inviting and praying for other Christians to join me to pray like we’ve never prayed before - for ourselves, our community and our world. Here are some ideas and areas of prayer to inspire you.

We should pray humbly; in need of grace and for forgiveness in all the ways we’ve wandered. We should ask forgiveness for allowing other things in the world to become more important to us than Him.

We should approach God, our King, in gratitude for His faithfulness, forgiveness, love and mercy.

We should declare confidently that His mighty power acts on behalf of His children and that nothing is impossible for Him; that His amazing power is still at work today.

We should pray prayers of thankfulness for His reminders that He is always with us and that His plans and purposes will prevail no matter how things look.

We should ask Him for the power of His Holy Spirit to fill us afresh. We should ask that His power will cover every broken place and renew our hearts in Him.

Lastly, we should ask for His help to live aware, to choose wisely, to stay close to Him, anchored in His truth. We should ask for His help to be faithful to proclaim His name and to see an awakening in our own lives and in the world around us, as never seen before.

Can you pray that blind eyes would open and that many would come to know Him as Savior and Lord? Can you pray that He would shine His light, pushing back the forces of darkness that surround us? Can we strive to be light and love in a world so desperately in need of hope?

Let’s pray for comfort and healing in our world. Let’s pray that the enemy’s plans to silence the name of Jesus would be crushed.

Let’s fight for the unity of His people that all believers, not individual churches - one Church, would stand together in His power and peace.

Remember, Jesus is everything and people matter!

Wake us up, Lord! Remind us to live aware, to be wise to redeem the time, to listen to Your words, and to be willing to make a difference in the places you’ve called us to be.

Amen

Sylvia Gaston

Family Ministry Pastor


Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Shaped by 2020

I am the first to admit that I am no history buff. Even so, I am not exempt from the responsibility of learning from our past. One thing we can notice, is how certain events mark a generation and its evident in their lifestyle or thought process the impact of that event. For example, the generation that survived, and was raised during, the Great Depression are noted by signs of frugality, hard work, and the desire to have resources stored in multiple avenues (money both in the bank and under the mattress, and huge stores of food in the pantry). Going through a universally-impacting historical event gave a certain dose of personality to a generation. This leads me to wonder, and pray, what the impact of the events of 2020 will have on this current generation?

Here’s what I know. The enemy of our souls is seeking to destroy us. He will use any means necessary to do this. He does not let off the gas of his onslaught. What an arsenal a global pandemic, political and social unrest, and general heightened anxiety has been for him to harm this generation. I have recently read reports of how young people have the highest levels of suicidal ideation ever recorded. I have witnessed fathers and sons not speak to each other over political differences. I have talked with people who have become generally unimpressed or disappointed by the church and have decided that a life of faith is no longer for them. 

While these things are evident, I also know that God is still on the move! 

As a believer in the power of prayer, I am making it my mission to pray for this generation, who are still being pressed by the events of the day. I believe that we can seek God and move out of this season with different outcomes than the ones reported. The markers impressed upon our generation by 2020 do not have to be fear, anxiety and division. Will you consider praying in 2022 for this generation alongside me? Here’s how I’ll be praying: 

  • We are a generation of Unity. We learned how quickly and easily opposing groups can be formed of even the closest of people. But many of us also learned how to apologize, forgive, and reconcile. My prayer is that learned acts of reconciliation would be the defining trait of this generation. Lord, guide us to be a people who are resistant to offense, and quick to forgive. Help us to see how You have made us each uniquely, but wonderfully, and how those differences are actually for the benefit of the whole! 
  • We are a generation of Action. There have been many movements this past 24 months. We were able to see what changes can be made when people work together towards a common goal. The Lord has not created us to do His work alone. In unity, Lord, help us to do Your work. Help us to not be swept up by any cause, but help us to be people of action, seeking to build Your kingdom in the myriad of ways that You have gifted and inspired us to do so!
  • We are a generation of Truth. The truth has been a slippery item to grasp. Many people have felt the disappointment of what has been presented versus what was discovered as reality. What is projected may just be from one person’s perspective, but does not always equate to what is actually truth. Lord, help us to be a people who seek to stand on truth, and not a second-hand distortion of the truth. Help us to not be deceived by the schemes of the enemy of our hearts. 
  • We are a generation of Love. What a year for creatively loving your neighbor! While loving your neighbor has looked different, depending on where you may stand on certain issues, I have seen an increase in a focus on doing just that - loving the people around you. While I understand the call can be distorted to benefit selfish desires, my prayer is that the goodness of the heart behind it settles in and the rest fades away. Lord, may we be a generation that cares for the helpless, lost, and vulnerable. Help us to love sacrificially and selflessly the way You did. Help us to not be a generation of fear, but of compassion and love. 
These are some of my prayers for this generation in 2022! I do not believe every plan of the enemy has to succeed. Scripture teaches us that the days will grow increasingly challenging. But we can take heart! The one who has overcome the world is on our side! Let’s stay diligent to be engaged in what God is doing, even today!  



Candace Cortez

Executive Pastor 

For God So Loved The World

 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” - John 3:16

In this season of great joy and cheer, there is something that is always overlooked. After the presents, music, laughter, and treats, there is something that we need to realize; possibly the greatest thing that we can ever ponder: God loves us. To fully understand this, let me rephrase it and say:

God loves You

I’m sure you’ve heard this before but consider this - He, God, our heavenly Father, whom creation bows down and sings to; He, who made and formed you; He, who has a name for all the stars in Heaven; He, God, who is Christ Jesus; He loved YOU first.

Our relationship with God is not one of a normal nature. It is not a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship where it can flourish one week and die the next. It is not a marriage relationship, where we will remain faithful and love our partner only if they remain faithful to us. There is no love quite like this. God loved you first, meaning, that He will love you no matter what. In our highs and our lows, He has always been there and will continue to do so. Even as we forget the promises we made to Him, address our spouse and kids out of anger, or say things in traffic that would make others blush, His love remains. There is nothing we can do to make God stop loving us. 

I believe that our first mission in life is not to love God, but to accept that He loves us. Our primary objective is not to devote time to God and to put Him first in all we do, but to acknowledge the fact and believe that He loves us. As we believe this truth, I believe that a natural response of adoration, reverence, and devotion will ensue.  

We love him, because He FIRST loved us - 1 John 4:19

Instead of attempting to measure up to God’s standards or trying to match His love (which we will NEVER be able to do), I encourage you - in this season - to focus on the love that God has for you. He started love; He is love; He gave love first; we need to accept Him.

If we turn our eyes to Jesus and the love that He has for us, every problem will fade away in the light of His glory and grace. If we focus on His love FIRST, keeping our love for Him second, everything else will fall into place. 

God loves you like you can’t imagine. He looks at you and smiles. He laughs with you, cries with you, and helps you every step of the way. It’s my prayer and hope that you believe that God loves you, no matter what you’ve done. There are no lost causes with God (the apostle Paul comes to mind). He will always be beside you, welcoming you with open arms. He loves you so much that He sent His Son to die for you, not because He had to, but because He didn’t want to see you lost in your transgressions and sins. God loves you.

Happy 2022!


Here is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins - 1 John 4:10


Mauricio Paredes

Junior High Pastor

Friday, December 24, 2021

Choosing Joy

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Well, tell that to my 5-year-old nearly every morning when I’m getting her ready for school. LOL. It’s darker, colder, and the days are shorter which doesn’t equate to joy in my house. 

I exaggerate, because my kids do love Christmas, gifts, and the whole shebang. My exaggeration is for those mornings and days that truly feel like someone has sucked the joy out of the room. 

 

Today, I want to remind you that joy isn’t a season, it’s a choice.

 

Don’t get me wrong, the season can make it hard to choose joy, but it doesn't have the final word. I can’t help but grin as I write this because my morning conversations with my daughter are playing over in my mind.

 

My baby loves to sleep and when you tell her that sleep is over, the amount of attitude that exudes from her little body is amazing. After wearing my patience down to a nub, I remind her that joy is a choice by asking her very “calmly” to, ‘Change that face, little girl!’  I’d like to report that my words carry deep influence and she is instantly obedient, but every parent knows the struggle. Her response is insightful though, “I can’t. I don’t know how.” 

 

Her words strike me every morning because I know how she feels. Emotions can be overwhelming, which at times makes choosing joy, or a better attitude, feel almost impossible. 

 

Over the last few years, I’ve sculpted my response to that question. I have come up with a strategy to help her choose joy. It’s not foolproof because the emotions win the fight half the time, but I believe I’m teaching her how to fight. I want to give my daughter the tools to make hard choices when everything inside of her is telling her to make the wrong one. 

 

So here is my strategy to choose joy: 

 

Worship God. This may be foreign to some but I encourage you to give it a shot. This means to simply sing and/or meditate on the goodness of God. There is a Bible story in Acts 16 about two missionaries who were thrown into jail and beaten. After the beating, they sat in the jail cell and began to sing and worship God. It’s an amazing story because as they sang, an earthquake shook the prison and the doors swung open and their shackles fell off. The story ends with the jailer and his family deciding to accept Christ and a church began in the Roman colony of Philippi. 

 

I’m convinced not just through the story, but from my own experience, that focusing on the presence of God changes your internal temperature in your current reality. There is something special about worshiping the God of the universe that puts our lives in the right perspective. My daughter and I worship God together almost every morning.   

 

Be Grateful. My initial attempt to help my daughter change her attitude was to ask her to say aloud three things she is thankful for. The first couple of times this didn’t go over so well. It’s still a struggle! But the attempt here, once again, is to give her the tools to choose joy. The tools can be difficult to use at times, but practice makes perfect. 

 

Being thankful helps us shift our focus away from our emotionally-charged reality. Most bad attitudes come from unmet expectations. The best counterattack is to think of the things that have met or exceeded our expectations. Remember Acts 16; the church that began in Philippi? A year or two later, this church is facing difficult circumstances and Paul, one of the missionaries that got whooped, encourages them to choose joy and to rejoice amidst their challenges. In Philippians chapter 4, he writes, “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.” 

 

Be a Giver. Once again, many of our attitudes are affected by the things we didn’t get; expectations that were unmet. Doesn’t this ring true in a season that can be overwhelmed by materialism and the “I wants”? If we aren’t careful, disappointment can carry us to dark places and sometimes the only way to get us out of those places is to begin by doing something practical. There is a fine line between being “fake” and practicing a practical discipline until your internal attitude catches up. 

 

I think of this every time I jump on the treadmill at the gym. My attitude stinks and I don’t want to be at the gym but I force myself to walk for 30 minutes and I’m a completely different person inside afterward. 

 

Being a giver is a similar discipline. It’s a practical way of saying that it’s not all about me. If we truly want to access a joy that supersedes our attitudes, we have to remind ourselves that life doesn’t center around us.  

 

My prayer and hope for you is that you know how to choose joy! Worship God as often as you can, fill your mind with the things you are grateful for, and give as much as you can. I truly believe if you are proactive in these things, your life will be full of JOY. 


Blessings,

Pastor Chad

Mens’ and Outreach Pastor


Tuesday, December 14, 2021

We're All Weird

I recently had opportunities to interact with people who are not in my usual circle of day-to-day life. Some of them were very different from me in the way they dressed, talked, worshiped and behaved. I would even go so far as to say some of them were a bit ‘weird’. I watched and tried not to judge. Next, I used the occasion to appreciate their uniqueness. Then, I asked myself, ‘What is weird? What is normal?” Ironically, one of my social media pages has a heading that says, “There’s no such thing as normal.”

The dictionary defines ‘weird’ as: strange, odd, bizarre. Yes, those words would definitely fit some of the people I was around. But strange, odd and bizarre as compared to what? They are not strange, odd and bizarre in their own circles. God probably doesn’t see them that way, either. Is it only my viewpoint?


I believe I have a healthy understanding of how God sees each of us. He views each person on earth as His beloved son or daughter, perfectly created in His image. He created us and has known us since we were conceived. He created us on purpose and for a purpose on earth. His love is not dependent on if we love Him, or if we behave ourselves or, actually, anything. He just LOVES US. Period. 


Think about how we see our own sons or daughters. We love them unconditionally no matter their appearance, their personality, their behavior, or even if they are a bit ‘weird’. They are ours and they are precious to us! 


I am often reminded that I view life, and other people, from the perspective of my limited and, often, na├»ve bubble. I am constantly surprised by the appearance, personality and behavior of others. The world would be so boring if there was only one singular type of person populating it. Who knows? Maybe I’m the weird one.


Would we be better citizens of Earth if we humbled ourselves to accept, and even value and appreciate, the differences amongst us? Would we be better followers of Christ if we looked upon others through God’s eyes? I believe the answer is ‘yes’. How would seeing others through God’s eyes alter our viewpoint of those we find a bit ‘weird’? 


God intends for us to be brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, and friends to those on this planet. Even if they have different skin, politics, education, finances and peculiarities. Time and time again, in his Holy Word, He reminds us to “Above all, love each other deeply” (1 Peter 4:8), “Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12), and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18) to name only a few.


During this holiday season, I pray that we will all be a little more tolerant, patient, and giving to others. But let’s go a step further. Let’s take our holiday cheer beyond Christmas and put on the eyes of God when it comes to the colorful people who surround us. Let’s choose to not be easily offended, to not judge, and to not be limited in our ideals of normal. Let’s just appreciate the variety around us and pray others love and accept us – even if we’re weird to them.



Sylvia Gaston

Family Ministry Pastor 

Thursday, December 2, 2021

You Don’t HAVE To

I was 21 when we had our firstborn son. We didn’t have much money. My husband and I were both in school and working hourly jobs on our way to careers, but things were tight.

For Christmas, we decided not to buy our 7-week-old son any Christmas gifts. We were blessed with an amazing baby shower and we had more things than we needed. One of our values that we decided early on in our marriage, was to live within our means. We didn’t want to spend more money than we made. This decision was not well received by most of those who heard about it. It was thought of as extra bizarre because it was our baby’s first Christmas. But here’s the thing - that’s the very reason why it made sense to me! We loved our baby, and he had everything he needed.

 

While the decision was easy for us, it was not easy to explain to everyone. This is when I learned an important lesson. Not everyone will agree with, or understand, your decisions to follow how God has called you to live. And they do not have to!

 

During this holiday season, I want to encourage you to consider three areas that you don’t have to step into, even though it seems like the norm. This year, you don’t have to overspend. This year, you don’t have to overcommit your schedule. And this year, you don’t have to be offended.

           

As Christians, one of the main slogans we hear during the Christmas season is how Jesus is the reason for the season. While this might feel outdated or cheesy, it’s a beautiful reminder. While glitter and gifts may appear to be the focus, it’s actually the birth of our savior that is the real gift. It’s honoring the start of God’s plan for reconciliation with humanity.

 

I love to give gifts as a way to love on my friends and family. But I have also experienced the pressure to go overboard here. You don’t HAVE to buy a lot of things to make Christmas morning special. I am not discouraging you from buying gifts! I only want you to experience the freedom to make healthy choices that are based on your goals for your family. Financial debt should always be off the table. It is a thief of joy and peace. Let’s not let the thief in, just to follow a tradition that may not be one you need this year. 

 

It’s a season for gathering! I love building community and participating in volunteer opportunities around town, especially during this season. But being busy is not the goal. You don’t HAVE to overcommit to express to the Lord how grateful you are for your community and Him coming to this earth. This may be a good season to double down on your sabbath rest, as so much of the holidays equal hustle. Remember, your time with Jesus is for you and for Him. I am extra and I do extra, but not at the expense of my time with Jesus, and my ability to love my household well!

 

As we get together with co-workers, family, or strangers at the downtown ice rink, there will be many chances to be offended. Listen, you don’t HAVE to take offense! There are many reasons to be offended these days, but the choice is still yours. People can behave offensively around you, without you taking that offense on. People can say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, they can be late, they can be rude, but you don’t have to allow offense to settle in and change your heart. 

 

Be blessed this holiday season. Be a blessing to someone else. Allow God to guide how you engage this year. The pressures you may be experiencing this year, they may not be gifts. Remember, this Christmas holiday is about how Jesus came, a surprise, to give us full access to Father God. Take a moment, and talk with Him! Allow His presence to be the biggest gift, source of peace, and ultimate guide during the final days of 2021.  

 

Candace Cortez

Executive Pastor


The Glad Game vs the Sad Game

In the 1960 Disney movie, “Pollyanna”, Hayley Mills played the title character.  Pollyanna Whittier, a young orphan, goes to live with her wealthy, but stern, Aunt Polly in Vermont. Pollyanna's philosophy of life centers on what she calls "The Glad Game," an optimistic attitude she learned from her father. She consistently finds something to be glad about in every situation regardless of how difficult things become. The game originated one Christmas when Pollyanna was hoping to receive a doll for her present. When she opened her gift, however, she found only a pair of crutches inside. At that moment, Pollyanna's father taught her to look at the good side of things—in this case, to be glad about the crutches because "she didn’t need them." Her gratitude and thankful spirit influenced this small New England town and transformed it into a place of joy and thanksgiving.


A grumpy attitude or a grateful heart is a matter of choice. Do you want to influence people in a positive way? Does the atmosphere at your job need to be refreshed? Would you like to cheer people up rather than bring them down? Then choose to be grateful in this season of Thanksgiving.


The Bible reveals that the apostle Paul went through many ups and downs in his life. He was beaten, shipwrecked, hungry, deserted, and even stoned to the point of death. If anyone had a right to complain, he did! But listen to his words from 2 Corinthians 4:1-18. “Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are quite small in comparison to the big picture and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.” (NLB)


To be grateful, you need a new focus, a reason to speak and a willingness to share. Therefore, open your eyes and focus on what you have rather than on what you don’t. It will bring peace! Open your mouth and express thanks to God. It will create joy! Open your hands and share your blessings. It will show love!


Thanksgiving will put an end to jealousy, envy and covetousness. It will guard you from a spirit of entitlement and help you to stop taking things for granted. Giving thanks will cause a demanding spirit to leave. A grateful heart will help you see life with a new perspective.


Our country has set aside one day a year to remind us of the importance of thanksgiving. I personally think we should be thankful 365 days a year but THANK GOD we at least have one day still on the calendar as a reminder. I can’t speak for you but, as for my family and me, we are going to choose thankfulness over complaining, gratitude over grumpiness, and play the Glad Game rather than the Sad Game. If anyone comes to you this season and invites you to focus on the miserable-ness of things, why don’t you simply say: Thanks, but no thanks!


Allow this November 25th to establish a foundation and pattern for your future.

 

Tim Howard

Retired Lead Pastor at Koinonia Church