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


Friday, November 12, 2021

Testify

 This is for all of you who call yourself Christians. It is time for us to seriously begin to testify.

I don’t mean to testify as in court, although if you’re asked to do so, of course you should. I’m referring to testifying in daily conversations. Testifying to the times when you have seen God work in your life. Don’t panic. I’m not talking about standing on the street or on a stage, preaching to others. I’m talking about sharing with others, when the occasion arises, about times when you knew God was with you.

 

It might be when you prayed for healing or your finances or a difficult relationship and it all worked out. It might be looking back to times when you made bad choices that should have landed you in big trouble but, somehow, you were spared.

 

I can personally recall several times in my teens and twenties when I was not walking with God and made horrible choices. I see, now, that He protected me from myself. He kept me safe when I wasn’t in a safe situation. He kept me out of trouble when it was what my behavior deserved.

 

I remember a time when my husband led my young children in nightly prayers over a weird rash on my legs that was spreading rapidly. The doctors had no idea what it was and the next steps of testing were going to be very unpleasant and uncertain. God healed that mysterious skin disease with only our prayers.

 

I recall many, many others. Times I’ve prayed and He’s given me what I needed. Not necessarily what I wanted, but what I needed. Those are the things I want to let others know about.

 

Why is that important?

 

First, it lets others know that I place my faith in a God who can do all things – in the natural and in the supernatural. Others need that kind of faith, too.

 

Secondly, it encourages those who may be in a really tough situation. We can share our ‘down in the valley’ moment with them so they can see that we don’t stay there forever. We can help them turn to, and pray to, God who can help when no one and nothing else can. This is so very helpful when someone’s situation seems hopeless and they feel helpless.

 

Lastly, it reminds me! It reminds me of His faithfulness when the next trauma or crisis rears its ugly head. It reminds me when I’m in a pit of discouragement or a valley of doubt that life is a series of hilltops and valleys and that no matter where I am at the moment, He is with me.


The word testimony in Hebrew is 'Aydooth' which means 'do it again with the same power and authority'. Every time we speak out, or read a testimony, we are saying ‘Lord, do it again with the same power and authority’.

 

When we testify, it builds us up to weather the storm, to remind ourselves Who God is and what He can do. It brings to our remembrance that God loves us and has helped us out before and He can and will do it again.

 

The Bible says:

“The LORD’S loving kindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” -Lamentations 3:22-23 

 

The difficulty is this . . . when you are in the valley, it can be hard to remember the hilltop moments and your testimonies. Sometimes the crisis is so big, we find ourselves paralyzed. That is when it’s so valuable to have them written down. Start now to recall and record the beautiful moments when you saw that God had His hand on your head. When He held your hand in comfort or had your outcome in the palm of His hand.

 

I encourage you to write down your testimonies – large and small – to read at a future date when you desperately need them. Add to them, encouraging Bible verses that speak to God’s truths, promises, and faithfulness.

 

Whether it is for someone else or for yourself, be ready at all times to testify!

 

“We must hold on to the hope we have, never hesitating to tell people about it. We can trust God to do what He promised.” – Hebrews 10:23 (ERV)

  

Sylvia Gaston

Family Ministry Pastor


Bible Prophecy and our Times

 “God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and He blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near.” – Revelation 1:3 (NLT)

What do you think when your pastor starts a sermon with, “Today, we’re going to dive deep into Bible prophecy?” Do you say to yourself, “Oh joy! This’ll be fun!...NOT!” Do your eyes roll into the back of your head when he starts analyzing the book of Daniel, verse by verse? Or do you find it fascinating?

 

Jesus is found throughout the Bible, and He has fulfilled many, many prophecies (at least 300, by most scholarly estimates). Studying Bible prophecy is fascinating! When you have good resources for interpretation, the Bible can come alive for you in ways it never has before.

 

My first foray into Bible prophecy was through the classic book by Hal Lindsay, “The Late, Great Planet Earth.” It was published in 1970 and my mom picked up a copy of it a few years later in a thrift store when I was about 11 years old. An avid reader, I devoured the whole thing over a weekend and she and I had many interesting conversations about what it could all mean. That started me on a journey to find out for myself what God had to say about His plans for me, the world, and the whole of Creation.

 

For someone who has never studied prophecy, it can seem overwhelming and confusing; some might even say it is downright weird! Flaming clouds with strange beings in the sky (Ezekiel 1), locusts that look like horses (Revelation 9), a seven-headed beast with ten horns (Revelation 13). When you put it all together, though, Bible prophecy paints a picture of the evil of this world, the need for Jesus to redeem it, and the ultimate victory that God will have over the universe.

 

What is prophecy? Simply put, Bible prophecy is God revealing history in advance.

 

Why is Bible prophecy important for you? Fulfilled Bible prophecy is the most compelling evidence that the Bible is from God.

 

How will Bible prophecy help me today? In these chaotic times, so much is changing and not for the better. It is more important than ever that we keep our focus on Jesus and His Word. By reading the entirety of the Bible, including prophecy, we can be reassured that God is in control and He has the ultimate plan for our deliverance.

 

In chapters 24 and 25 of Matthew, Jesus speaks at great length about the “end of the age” or “the end times”, a phrase often used today. It is important to study His words, but at the same time, we are not to speculate about the details and, certainly, we aren’t to be doing any date setting based on what we see in the news today. As soon as Jesus finished speaking to the disciples about the signs of the end of the age, He told the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), ending with these words, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”

 

Since Jesus walked the earth, was crucified, died, and resurrected in glory, the Church has been waiting for His promised return. As Jesus ascended into Heaven in front of the apostles, two white-robed men (angels) stood among them, “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday He will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” Acts 1:11 (NLT) When the early Church greeted each other, they would say, “Maranatha!” which meant “The Lord is coming!” or “Come, O Lord!”. They were waiting with great anticipation for His return and so, today, we also continue to wait for Him because He promised.

 

As you study Bible prophecy, you will inevitably come to the Book of Revelation. There is a special blessing for anyone who reads, listens and studies it. “God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and He blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3 NLT). As you read through Revelation, you might be horrified! Terrifying beasts, plagues, armies, blood, a star falling from the sky, Christians persecuted and killed, and eternal judgement are all included in this book.

 

If the Book of Revelation paints this picture of our future, where is the hope in that? There is hope because, if we happen to be the generation who lives through the “end of the age”, God has an escape plan for His beloved, the Church. We are the bride of Christ, and Jesus is not going to let us get beat up during the end of the age. As with Noah and his family protected during the flood, and the Israelites delivered from captivity in Egypt, God will rescue believers from the Tribulation of Revelation chapters 6-18. This is often referred to as The Rapture and is described in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18…”For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up on the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So, encourage each other with these words.”

 

After the Rapture, or rescue, of the Church, the rest of the world will experience a time of Tribulation never before seen on the earth. Satan and the Antichrist will try their best to rule the world but, in the end, God wins. There was never any doubt of that, but it is reassuring in this day and age of so much pain, heartache and cruelty, to know that God is in charge, and He will judge the world. In Revelation 20:10, it is summed up this way, “Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

 

Finally, in chapters 21 and 22 of Revelation, the triumphal return of Jesus Christ, His defeat of Satan and His establishment of His kingdom on earth are clearly described and showcase God’s mighty plan. Evil will not prevail. In chapter 22, Jesus says three times that He is coming soon!

 

“Look, I am coming soon! Blessed are those who obey the words of prophecy written in this book.” (vs 7)

 

“Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (vs 12-13)

 

 He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” (vs 20)

 

What should we be doing as we wait for God’s plan to be unveiled? In the parable of the wise and foolish virgins of Matthew 25:1-13, half of the virgins were prepared while waiting for the bridegroom to arrive. They had trimmed the wicks of their lamps and had plenty of oil to keep them burning. The foolish virgins didn’t have enough oil and left to go purchase more. As a result, they weren’t ready and waiting when the bridegroom returned. We want to be people who are ready, waiting for Jesus’ return, whether that’s through his rescue before the Tribulation, or our natural death after a long life. We are to continue working and loving others as Jesus would expect us to do. In Matthew 24:40-42, Jesus is speaking about what will happen when the Church is delivered before the Tribulation…”Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left. So, you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming.” Please note that the people Jesus described here aren’t hiding in a bunker in the hills. They are working. We should be keeping our hands and minds busy with the things of God right up to the end.

 

If you are interested in finding out more about Bible prophecy, here are some very good resources. I especially recommend The Prophecy Pros podcast for a start on your journey to learning more about what God has to say about our future:

 

Podcasts and Website Resources:

The Prophecy Pros with Jeff Kinley and Todd Hampson

Behold Israel with Amir Tsarfati (excellent perspective from a Christian Jew who lives in Israel)

Understanding the Times with Jan Markell (Olive Tree Ministries)

 

Book Suggestions:

The Non-Prophet’s Guide to the End Times – written and illustrated by Todd Hampson

The Book of Signs - Dr. David Jeremiah (also his website at davidjeremiah.org)

 

 

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

 


The Quiet Place

If you’ve hung around church long enough, you have probably heard of “the quiet place”, “prayer closet”, “devotional time”, and so on. Pragmatically speaking, this means to set time aside to practice your spiritual disciplines such as prayer, reading Scripture, meditating, etc. But if you are a practicing Christian, you know it’s much deeper than that. It’s not just an external discipline but an internal place we go. It’s a place where we access and connect with the presence of God. 

There are similar practices in the world and within other religions that also practice these types of things but they are all rooted in something different. The Christian practice is rooted in the understanding that God’s temple is now our bodies. His presence, because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and our committed confession of that, now dwells inside of us. 

 

This place is available to all Christians but not everyone goes there. To be honest, many Christians fall into the “religion” of it all. They become satisfied with weekly Bible plans on the Youversion app and daily 5-minute prayers on the way to work. I’m not making fun of those things because they have their place but I’d like to submit that there is more. 

 

This practice of the quiet place is seen throughout the Bible but the most impactful, in my mind, is when Jesus practices it. In the gospels, we often see Jesus going off to a secluded place where He connects with the Father. I’m sure He had scriptures He read and prayers that He said but it seemed deeper than that. We see Him connecting with God. 

 

Jesus states multiple times in the gospels that He only does and says what the Father tells Him to do and say. That means that God was giving Jesus real time direction and commands - not just encouraging thoughts and a stamp of approval because of his prayer discipline.  

 

In Matthew 6, the disciples (people who followed Jesus) finally asked him, “Lord, will you teach us how to pray?” Why did they ask Him that? The guys following him were good Jewish boys and knew all the same prayers Jesus did. Is it possible that there was something different about what Jesus prayed? It didn’t seem religious but authentic. They weren’t memorized, rehearsed prayers. They were filled with power from the relationship He had with God. 

 

So, Jesus begins to teach them. He starts by giving them an example, “This is how you should pray”, ‘Our Father in heaven’”. Did you know this wasn’t a common practice until Jesus? You often heard ‘Lord’, ‘God’, or ‘Yahweh’, but ‘Father’ wasn’t common. Jesus was letting His disciples know that this isn’t just some prescription on how to say a good prayer. He was showing them that prayer was supposed to be an intimate time with your Father. 

 

He tells them not to pray like the pagans or Pharisees. Pagans repeat the same prayers and chants mindlessly. This was similar to today's practices of manifesting thoughts or incantations. This practice is often rooted in the same ideology as birthday wishes - in a selfish want and not in the hope to connect to the entity you're praying to. The Pharisees, who were religious leaders of the day, prayed out in front of everyone to look holy. They knew how to play the religious/church games to look as if they knew God. The truth is they were dead inside. At one point Jesus calls them “whitewashed tombs' '. They look good on the outside but only death is on the inside. 

 

My hope is that you would practice visiting the quiet place, prayer closet, or unseen place in the right way. My hope is that you would know how to internally access the presence of God and hear from Him. My hope is that your Christian practices would be real and fruitful, not just a moral obligations. 

 

On Sunday, October 31st, I will be kicking off our Koinonia’s Missions Month series called, “Unseen”. I will be talking about the “unseen place”, what it is, and how to access it. If you would like to know more about going further with God, I’d encourage you to join us. 

 

Blessings, 

Pastor Chad

 

 

Chad Fagundes

Men’s and Outreach Pastor


Friday, October 22, 2021

We Need To Rest

 Growing up in my 20s, I used to take pride in how busy I was. Starting my day early by going to work, hitting the gym, spending time with family and friends, and going to bed late were medals that I proudly wore on my chest. I also volunteered in various groups and departments at my church, from being a youth group leader, singing with the choir, and playing guitar with the band. These were great times for me and I learned a lot. But the thing about the human body is, it needs to rest. Any doctor, personal trainer, or grandparent will tell you that your body needs to rest, your mind needs to recharge, and your soul needs to be refueled often. 

I like to work on our house. There is always a project to do (benefits of living in a 108-year-old home). If you were to think that I am a very busy person, you would’ve been right a few years ago. As of late, I’ve learned to keep God’s fourth commandment. Let me remind you of what that is:

 

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” -Exodus 20:8 ESV

 

Believe me, it’s very easy to go through the motions of life with our tanks empty, fueled by the vapors of pride and fear. That’s why it is very important to note that God commands us to rest. At first, this was presented to me as the idea of honoring God. Since the Lord rested after He created everything, as we read about in the book of Genesis, we should imitate this same action. But in recent years, I learned of another reason why we are commanded to rest. 

 

As we read the first three commandments in Exodus 20, we see that God commands us to worship Him and Him alone, to not make any idols or to serve any other gods. He then commands us to keep the Sabbath day. I believe there is a perfectly good reason for this: work can become an idol. We can become so invested in our jobs, projects, and endeavors that we place God to the side, trusting in our own abilities and skills to get us through life and worshiping the labor of our hands.

 

I have a natural tendency to need to know everything. I often fill my time with finding facts about people, music, or history, and I do so with the intention of being ready for anything. One never knows when an impromptu trivia night will occur. But this is very exhausting and tiring; I fill any free time I get with meaningless trivia that may or may not be appreciated! I live in fear of not knowing, so I make it a point to learn. But these actions of mine don’t bring honor to God because I’m not even spending time with Him. I’m so preoccupied with what may occur one day that I don’t see what I can be enjoying now: I can be enjoying God’s presence and sovereignty. I believe that this is how we honor God with our rest, by trusting Him completely. Just as Psalms 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (ESV).

 

Maybe knowledge is not be your idol; maybe it’s working long hours and overtime to build up your nest egg. If God is calling us to trust Him, that might look like you choosing not to work weekends, and instead, choosing to spend time with the one who says He will supply all your needs (Matthew 6:33 comes to mind).

 

I can’t help but notice that the times when we are most vulnerable is when we are resting, whether it be sleeping for hours, or the weekly anticipated Sundar afternoon nap. I think that – in order to fully trust God - we need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable in our everyday lives. I believe that this shows God that we fully trust Him. That, as we rest in Him, we acknowledge that the world continues to spin, our phones will continue to ring, our kids will continue to throw things, and the Lord is still in control.


So, let’s take the fourth commandment seriously - turn off our working minds for a time, and choose to rest in the one who holds all things.

 

 Mauricio Paredes

Junior High Pastor


The Hard Things Can Be FOR You

We recently hit a milestone as a family. My oldest son turned 13. I know what you’re thinking. Buckle up because this is going to be rough! You might be right. I believe God has given me a unique love for teenagers, so I have honestly been waiting and parenting for these days since the beginning! My prayers are different but the goal is still the same: raise healthy adults who love Jesus! I’ll write again on this in two years with an update to let you know how it’s going. 

Just before his birthday, we had a challenging parent moment. My husband and I decided to change schools for my son. He has several super great friends attending his current school. Yet, because of factors specific to our family and hopes for our future, we decided not to send him to the same school that these incredible friends were attending. My oldest is pretty easygoing, and yet this decision brought some pushback. Over several tearful conversations, we knew in our hearts it was the right choice, but it was definitely the hard choice. It meant starting over. It meant being the new kid. It meant a more difficult road on several different avenues. But I was able to say to him, ‘This is not going to be easy, but I promise we are doing what we think is best for you.’ I actually didn’t know it was going to be the best. It was a very prayed over and educated guess…but not a guarantee. 

 

This process has revealed more of the Father’s heart for us, His children. We prayed over this choice for months. I knew it would cost us, especially if it ended up causing more pain than we anticipated. I knew the potential wins with a change, and for that, the risk was worth it. My husband and I know “in part” and see “in part,” meaning, we do not know the future or understand every aspect of the school or even our son. But God does! When God moves us into difficult situations (and yes, He does that), He sees and knows every part of our heart and our circumstances. 

 

From Scripture, I know that all good things come from Father God (James 1:17). Sometimes, the good that God does is to allow the difficult things to be the pathway for growth. Out of my own desire for “the good life”, I tend to avoid certain sized challenges. God’s goal for me is not a “good life” rather, it’s a full and surrendered life! In order to reach the abundance of knowing God closely, the result of a difficult season may be the perfect addition to my life. It may be FOR me. It may be FOR you. God does not waste a trial, a struggle, or a tear. He uses every bit of our lives to draw us closer to Him. 

 

What’s your “new school” situation? Have you had to make a difficult job choice? Are you deciding whether to stay local or make a shift? Is parenting giving you a run for your peace and sanity? Have you recently lost a friend or family member? Maybe you’re feeling stuck in your relationships or in deciding what to do with your future? Have you found yourself self-medicating instead of seeking help and wholeness? None of these examples, or the thousands of challenges you may be going through, are impossible for God to use. He can make those things FOR your good. And your good is to know God more!  

  

Candace Cortez

Executive Pastor


Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Pride Goes Before The Fall

 Pride is universal; we all struggle with it. Yet we don’t always see it. Pride is a sneaky creature. It hides itself well, disguising itself in traits such as judgment, criticism, entitlement, ingratitude, people-pleasing, hypocrisy.

 

Definition of pride is: a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority. The Bible says, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” -Proverbs 11:2

 

Pride can lead us into situations we never would have imagined for ourselves. Just ask Haman from the story of Esther.

 

Esther is a fascinating Bible story of a young Jewish woman, who became a queen. She came face to face with a demon of pride, embodied by the king’s right-hand man, Haman.

 

Haman was always seeking to elevate himself in the eyes of his king and the eyes of the people. He loved getting respect from men and controlling people. He loved his position, his power, his wealth and his manipulating schemes. Hello, pride! When Esther’s guardian, Mordecai, refused to bow down as he passed through the crowd, Haman’s massive ego was insulted.

 

In response to Mordecai’s slight, Haman convinces the king that the Jews are a threat to him and his kingdom. He convinces the king to destroy the entire race, who did not know that Esther is Jewish. Because one man refused to bow and pride prevailed, the entire Jewish nation was decreed to die.

 

Mordecai sends word to Queen Esther and implores her to approach the king and plead their case. Esther is fearful – it was death to approach the king without being summoned. She asks her people to fast and pray for three days and then she will approach the king. She tells them, “And, if I perish, I perish.” -Esther 4:16

 

Meanwhile, Haman is bragging to his wife and friends and complaining about Mordecai’s failure to bow before him. They encourage him to “’Have a pole set up, reaching to a height of fifty cubits, (~75’) and ask the king to have Modecai impaled upon it.’ This suggestion delighted Haman’s selfdom, and he had the pole set up.

 

In a tense moment, Esther faithfully approaches the king without an invitation. He extends his royal scepter to her, sparing her life and promising to give her whatever she wishes, up to half of his kingdom. She asks him to spare her life and the lives of her people – that they are to be killed and annihilated. The king asks who would dare to do such a thing? Esther tells him, “This vile Haman!” The king was in a rage. One of his servants told him that Haman had erected a pole to impale Mordecai upon. The king said, “Impale him on it.”

 

A Jewish holiday, Purim, was declared and is celebrated to this day. The Jews remember and celebrate the faithfulness of God.

 

Moral of the story:

  1. If you set yourself up against God, or His people, you will fail. It is a foolish and impossible fight.
  2. You reap what you sow. If you are planting negativity, ill will, revenge – it will come back on you. If you are spreading love, joy and peace – that will be your portion in return!
  3. Pride goes before the fall. If you allow your pride to grow and lead you, you are in for a rude awakening and a painful fall. God turned Haman’s evil plans onto his own head.

 Where is pride showing up in our lives? Are we concerned with outward appearances? Are we judging and criticizing rather than praying and encouraging others? Are we seeking the approval of others more than the approval of God? It is all about “I” and “me” rather than “Him” and “others”?

 

The smallest seed of pride, over time, can grow into giant Haman-sized gallows. Be on guard against pride. Watch out for it; it sneaks in. Pray that God will reveal pride in you so that you can root it out and replace it with humility. Put God first; put others first.

 

God loves humble people. Aggressively pursue humility.

 

Humble yourself before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” – James 4:10

  

Sylvia Gaston

Family Ministry Pastor