Thursday, February 2, 2023

Keep Growing

As I watch my children and grandchildren grow up around me, I am struck by the idea that it never ends. I see my youngest 21-year-old child, Seth, grow into his 6’4” self. I see my youngest 1-year-old grandson, Calvin, grow from crawler to walker. I see them growing, not only physically but, in all the areas that make up who they are.


We are all in various stages of the lifelong progress of physical, behavioral, mental, emotional, and spiritual growth.


Our own growth CAN end, or simply stall, because we can choose to stop growing – perhaps not physically, but in other areas. We can choose to stagnate in our behavior and emotional growth. We can choose to not stall in our brain-based skills. And, we can definitely stop growing spiritually.


If you made a whole-hearted choice to follow Jesus, you could stop at that point and go no further in your spiritual maturity. However, the goal is to continue to mature each day until we stand face-to-face with Father God at the end of our earthly life.


What is spiritual growth? Generally speaking, it is the process of becoming more and more like Jesus in nature. This is a life-long process that happens by spending time in God’s Word, in His Presence, and cooperating with His Holy Spirit.


There are a number of things that can hinder that growth.


1. Self-centeredness:

This is a huge obstacle in our lives. We are born with a carnal nature; not a Christ-centered nature. Pride and personal comfort are close cousins of self-centeredness. These must be crucified in the same way that Jesus agreed to be crucified for us. Choose humility and others above self.

2. Ignorance:

If we do not know what pleases God, how can we grow spiritually? Ignorance can be easily overcome by spending time getting to know God. God wants us to experience Him daily and grow in an abundance life (John 10:10) Spend time in God’s Word, in His Presence, and in prayer.

3. Lack of Commitment / Compromise:

To grow spiritually requires that we keep moving toward God. To try to live the way the world says we should live often contradicts how God wants us to live. Distractions, the wrong friends, what we watch and listen to are all factors. Be all in! Be very selective with who and what you surround yourself.

4. Sin:

Because God is holy, sin puts a wall between us and God. There are all kinds of sin – from blatant to oblivious; from sexual immorality to unforgiveness. They all separate us from God. Ask God to reveal your sins, repent and be held accountable moving forward.

5. Negativity:

We have been saved by Jesus! Many of us, myself included, need to start living like it! The Bible tells us that we are to, “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) See also Philippians 4:8 Change your negative thoughts into thoughts of gratitude.


Don’t be overwhelmed. God knows that we are in process and that takes a lifetime. Only when we are glorified in heaven will we receive God’s final removal of sin from our lives, thanks to Jesus. This is a blessing bestowed upon every believer as He brings us into eternal perfection.


Throughout my own process, I have seen God, gently and lovingly, bring things to my attention that He wanted me to deal with. Just recently, He showed me something about myself. This was a gift, wrapped up in an ‘ouch’ moment. His intent is for me to be aware of it and to change it. It is my choice to do so.


A good measuring stick is found in Galatians 5:22-24, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there.” (NLT)


It’s time to begin the ongoing habit of self-evaluation through God’s eyes and according to God’s Word. Ask God to reveal what He sees in you. Keep growing, friends.



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

Friday, January 27, 2023

The Value of Within

Dr. Myles Munroe once said “Your gifting is only as safe as the character it contains”. We are all born with different gifts and talents.


However, if we do not display good character, it will diminish the value of the gift we possess. Throughout our lifetime, we see many influential people who are gifted but, due to lack of character, their lives are short lived.


Our society puts so much attention and value on our image and assumes it is our character. We must understand the difference between our image and our character. Image is the person we present to the world. Our character is who we are when no one is watching. Who we are when no one is watching affects every aspect of our lives. Let's work on our character just as much as, or even more than, our image.


We can walk securely through our lives when we choose to live a life of integrity. It allows us to be confident in ourselves, not just in our image but who we are when no one is watching us. When the image fades, character will remain.


A double lifestyle leads to anxiety and fear of people knowing the real you. As it progresses, it causes dysfunction which can lead to destruction. Tomorrow is never promised so we should live life making every moment count. When we choose to have integrity, it gives us the security and ability to live life being confident and bold. People of integrity not only have security but they are able to create safe spaces for others to do the same.


Giftings, and our self-created image, may get us into the room, but character allows us to have a seat at the table. Anyone can be in a room and it doesn't hold any significance. When you have a seat at the table, it represents that your voice carries value. If you lack character, you will never be able to gain trust from the people around you. Without trust, authentic relationships will not form.


We are all wired to want acceptance, love and belonging. When we lack character, it will be hard for us to receive true acceptance, love and belonging from the people around us. God never meant for us to do life alone.


The work we do within will determine how we live outwardly. The work of our character is like a plant. How we tend to the soil and the seed will determine the life of a plant. If we tend to the soil, it will allow the seed to take root which will then produce a plant. But even when the plant is fully alive, it does not mean the work of the soil is done. It is a constant process of tending to the ground to ensure the livelihood of the plant. It is the same for the work of our character. We never graduate from the work within. It is constant as life progresses. If we do the work, it will lead to us living a life outwardly that we are proud of.


Where the world values the outward; God values the inward. Which is why He often allows trials and tribulations to happen to us. Scripture encourages us in Romans 5:3-5, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (NIV)


God is a good Father who loves his children. His love is the reason He partners with us in the development and refinement of our character.


As our influence and power grows, we can have the character to sustain it well. It will be because we chose to do the work. Do the work from within and watch what will come out of it. Shift your value system from outward to inward and it will change everything. It may be hard and difficult at times but you have the power to do it.



Tyler Jones is Student Ministry Pastor at Koinonia Church in Hanford, CA. He can be reached at or 559-469-7775.

Friday, January 20, 2023

When You Feel Disconnected at Church


If you’ve been a Christian long enough, you know that there are seasons of life that affect your walk with Jesus. A death in the family, health problems, and changes in your personal relationships can affect your perception of God’s presence whether you’re at work, home, or church. The good news is that God never changes. He never leaves you and will not forget about you (Deuteronomy 31:18). But when you are going through a challenging season, you can feel disconnected in many areas of your life, including church.


I’ve recently had a health challenge with severe arthritis in my left knee. This caused me to stop taking new clients in my business (I am a piano tuner/technician) and take a long sabbatical from participating on the worship team at church. Initially, I enjoyed the extended break from the pace that I’d been trying to keep. However, after several weeks of this enforced rest, I began to feel depressed and isolated. For about a month, I rarely left the house because driving or sitting in a car as a passenger was excruciatingly painful. My knee needed to be in a neutral position with regular rounds of ice and a heating pad. I became very good friends with our easy chair. During this time, I watched church from home on YouTube.


I am so grateful that our church has long invested in this option for its members. Of course, during the pandemic, many churches found themselves getting very creative about reaching their congregations through online streaming. Since then, most of our church has returned to the building but many members, myself included, have continued to need technology on Sundays.


One side effect of my prolonged isolation and depression was that I felt very disconnected from my church. In the past, I’ve lead bible study groups, participated in women’s ministry, volunteered in our community Serve Day and, of course, played my instruments several times a month on the worship team. My church life came to a screeching halt this past summer. I became very aware that there must be an entire population of Christians out there who feel the same way, whether they’re disconnected due to health reasons like me, or because they just haven’t found their place at church.


Are you feeling disconnected, and maybe even resentful, toward your church? It can be so easy to feel that way, especially in a large church. You might be waiting for others to approach you when God wants you to reach out and touch them. In my case, I was a little bit disappointed that no one from church checked up on me very often. Then I had to face the truth: feeling angry or resentful is your first clue that you’re thinking of yourself and not of others.


There’s a saying that’s been going around for a few years that goes something like this… “So, you didn’t like the worship music or sermon at church this morning? That’s ok. We weren’t worshipping you.” Ouch! The truth can be painful. What is the solution? The first thing to do is pray. Talk to God about how you’re feeling. Lay out all your frustrations and concerns. He already knows what you’re going through but there’s something beautiful that happens when you confess your true self to Him. Ask Him for direction. He is so creative and will give you personalized ideas for finding a new connection with your church life.


What are your gifts and talents? Is God calling you to use them in a new way? I’ve been a church musician since I was 12 years old, but there are some new ideas percolating in my heart now that have been placed there by God. Be open to new experiences. Be willing to be uncomfortable and to step forward before anyone steps toward you.


Put a smile on your face even if you don’t feel like it because God is waiting to use you to touch others. He will bless you many times over when you put yourself aside and let Him work through you.


“When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.” -Romans 1:12 NLT

“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” -Hebrews 10:25 NLT

“For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.” -1 Corinthians 3:9 NLT

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” -Galatians 6:9-10 ESV



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

Friday, January 13, 2023

Forget your Resolutions

I must admit I’m not big on New Year resolutions. Mostly, because I don’t need any more help to feel like a loser. It’s unhealthy, though, to move forward without knowing where you are going. Our eyes need to be set on a destination. Typically, in the context of New Year’s resolutions, we talk about new goals you want to accomplish and there isn’t anything bad about that.


 I’d like to challenge you to think a little deeper along these lines. Make this year less about “goals” and more about making sure your eyes are set on the right destination. 


In the book of Proverbs, also known as the book of wisdom, it says, “where there is no vision the people perish” (29:18). This scripture has been used in many contexts to inspire visionaries but I’d like to give you a better understanding than to just have a vision for your life. The ESV and NIV translations actually use the word “revelation” instead of “vision”. “Where there is no revelation, the people go unrestrained.”


The writer isn’t talking about your goals on your vision board. He is talking about keeping your thoughts on the divine. Colossians 3:1-3 says it better: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”


You don’t need a New Year’s resolution; you need your eyes set on the unseen divinity of heaven. I’d like to encourage you to ask yourself the question, “Where do I have my eyes set?”


What would it look like for you to focus your attention on Jesus this year? Have you ever given that thought a real chance? Maybe, this is the year. Don’t fool yourself, it’s possible to go to church and not give your attention to Jesus. For some, that would be considered focus but for others it may not. It’s possible to grow old in church and never grow up in the Lord.


Come up with one new way to focus on Jesus this year! If you need some help, reach out to me at or visit Koinonia Church sometime. Details about our Sunday service times and groups throughout the week are at



Pastor Chad


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

Friday, January 6, 2023

Creating faith in our failures

For most people, the failures that happen in their lives keep them from trying again. We often see in movies and shows that someone has a fear to overcome and they are given the ability to do better. It’s a script, it’s inspiring, but it doesn’t change our circumstances. Be it a past trauma or just a bad attempt, it’s labeled a failure and many times stop us from the next try. I understand this - we all do - it makes perfect sense to stay safe.


It makes sense to stay in the areas where we are most gifted. There are books dedicated to playing to your strengths and they make a lot of money. We like being told that we don’t need to battle back from the falling down of failure. 


Spiritually, relationally, physically, academically, vocationally, we all fail. However, if you are a person of faith, if you are a believer in God, and a follower of Christ, there is a big change from this thought process waiting for you. In the book of Proverbs, we see a counteracting thought to accepting failure.


“For the righteous may fall seven times, and rises again, but the wicked stumble in time of calamity.” -Proverbs 24:16 NASB


The argument to this point is, “just falling is not failing” or “You haven’t gone through what I’ve been through”. These are both great statements to combat the thought. There are answers though, they are in that chapter just before this verse. The author of Proverbs gives good descriptions of who and what is being talked about. Picking this up in Proverbs 24:10-16, let’s talk about what each verse is trying to say.


10: Don’t be lazy in distress, you won’t be as strong as you could be.

11: Be a person that helps others in great distress and need.

12: There is grace for you that comes from God.

13: Don’t settle for that which is not the best.

14: Holding to the wisdom will make a great future for you.


And last, just before verse 16, is a warning said to those who are wicked.

15: Do not try to trip up my people. 


“For the righteous may fall seven times, and rises again, but the wicked stumble in time of calamity.” -Proverbs 24:16 NASB


The reason a righteous man, a believer in God, a follower of Christ, will get back up and   is called to get up, is because we are meant to be all the things leading up to verse 16. It is in you regardless of your failures or your lack of anything. We can achieve the simple action of standing back up, trying again, and attempting past our fears of inadequacy.  


I know some of us have had enormous hurt and loss in our lives. Moving forward sometimes seems unrealistic. So, remember this - We are meant to stand again, to attempt or try again. If there is something trying to hold us back, that is not our responsibility. Have faith in the One asking you to stand. Create faith in the midst of the failure.



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

Friday, December 23, 2022

Everything is Spiritual

An article by this name recently caught my eye. It is an excerpt from a book, Garden City: Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human by John Mark Comer.  It is about making everyday life a spiritual walk with God.


The author talks about how unglamorous and mundane our everyday lives are. Sure, some exciting, spiritual things happen along the way but most is routine. We’re just doing never-ending laundry, bathing kids or answering emails. This contributes to us creating a difference between the secular and the spiritual. Comer says this is not only untrue, but also dangerous.


The dictionary defines spiritual as “relating to the spirit, soul; supernatural”. Secular refers to worldly, nonreligious things. But in the Hebrew language there is no word for spiritual. Because in the Hebrew world, all of life is spiritual. Wow! I want that life view.


Jump to the New Testament. Only the apostle Paul uses the word spiritual. In his writings, it means “animated by the Holy Spirit. He, too, believes every part of our lives should be spiritual.


Comer puts it this way, “If you had asked Jesus about His spiritual life, I think He would have looked at you very confused. My guess is He would have asked, “What do you mean by My spiritual life? You mean My life? All of My life is spiritual.”


To Jesus, all of life was an integrated sacred experience. I personally know that God wants to be involved in every second of my life. But how does that look in the midst of the mundane? The Bible tells us, “Whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men” - Colossians 3:23. I put this into practice every time I take the roll of toilet tissue from my kids’ bathroom counter and actually put it on the roll. I say, “I’m doing this for you, Lord.” But, that’s only so I don’t nag at my kids about it…again.


As I ponder how to make everything in my life spiritual, vitalized by the Spirit of God, it becomes tied to my awareness that He is right near me. He is present at all times but I may not have a complete minute-by-minute awareness of that fact. I regularly say prayers for His direction, healing and wisdom throughout my days. However, in the in-between times I probably don’t realize that He’s always near me – on Earth.


In his letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul puts all people into two categories. The spiritual followers of Jesus who have His Spirit and those who don’t follow Jesus. Many Christians don’t know that, at the moment they wholeheartedly chose to follow Jesus, His Holy Spirit came to dwell in them. Everybody else is not spiritual.


I hope you will join me in learning how everything in our lives can become spiritual, because everything should be spiritual to the believer. Everything matters to God.


“We received the Spirit that is from God, not the spirit of the world. We received God’s Spirit so that we can know all that God has given us…But we have been given Christ’s way of thinking.”

-1 Corinthians 2:12, 16


Merry Christmas!



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

Friday, December 16, 2022

A Mere Reflection

 Have you ever lost something SUPER important to you? When my husband and I first

got married, we didn’t have much. We didn’t really put our ducks in a row before we got

married. Neither of us had graduated from college, we didn’t have major career plans, and we

didn’t have much in savings. We did know we were committed to figuring it all out together.


With our very limited income, we purchased simple rings for each other to signify the eternity of our bond to each other. Around 14 days into being married, while walking around in the grocery store together, which was way more exciting at that stage than it is now, my husband grabbed his head with his hand and exclaimed “Oh no, my ring is gone!” It was loose on his finger and we were not able to get it refitted. We re-traced his steps but never tracked it down. It was a bummer for sure and we knew we couldn’t afford another for a while. It took a few months, but we saved and bought another simple band.


During those few months when my new husband walked around town, without the

obvious distinction of being a married man, nothing about the quality of our marriage actually

changed. He was still devoted to me and I to him. We served one another in love and focused

on preferring each other over everyone else. He didn’t walk out during my first time being sick

and I didn’t leave when our finances remained tight. The ring did not make the marriage. That

was way deeper.


This is not revolutionary or groundbreaking information. It would obviously be backwards to assume that losing a ring is akin to losing value in a marriage. I also recognize that sometimes I live with backwards thinking in my relationship with Jesus. I sometimes put a premium on aspects of my faith that are actually mere reflections of my love of Jesus and not a true source. I love and serve the church. I do so with much of my time and resources. It is one of my greatest honors. But that does not replace loving Jesus. I love and study God’s word. But I know that reading the Bible is not the same as getting to know Jesus. I am a slave to serving the people in my life and even people I’ve never meet through acts of service and financial generosity. But serving and giving is not synonymous with surrendering to Jesus’ leadership.


In our culture, a wedding ring reflects a relational position. In Christian culture, practices

like attending worship services and volunteering to help people are reflections of a relationship with Jesus. The analogy also works the other way. An unmarried person cannot wear my wedding ring and assume a relationship as my husband’s wife. I cannot simply attend church or serve people and assume a relationship with Jesus.


So, how’s your commitment? Do people know that you follow Jesus? Are you reflecting that relationship well? Maybe you’re not a follower and you stumbled upon this religious section for a different reason. Are you curious about what a transformed life would look like on you? I pray today that you truly know and follow Jesus.

Let’s not be convinced that doing Jesus-y things is the same as being a follower of Jesus. While I wear the “ring” of my relationship with honor, I don’t let it take the main place of importance in my heart.



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