By Pastor Domenico Danesi
There are two men in the book of Acts chapter 5 whose names rhyme, Theudas and Judas. These men are mentioned by the Pharisee Gamaliel in defense of leaving the Apostles to themselves and letting time determine if their work is from God. The apostles refused to stop teaching and preaching Christ and the High Priest along with the Sadducees were concerned. Gamaliel then speaks up. “Then he addressed them (the men of the council): ‘Men of Israel, take care in regard to what you propose to do concerning these men (the Apostles). For before our time there arose Theudas, asserting himself to be a person of importance, with whom a number of men allied themselves, about 400; but he was killed and all who listened and adhered to him were scattered and brought to nothing. And after this rose up Judas the Galilean, during the time of the census, and drew away a popular following after him; he also perished and all his adherents were scattered.’” (Acts 5:35-37 Amplified, emphasis added)
We as parents need to learn from Theudas and Judas. Who our children “hang with” matters. Both Theudas and Judas lost their lives and the people who followed these men were scattered. Notice Judas drew away a popular following after him (verse 37). Your child is going to be like those they are around. God designed us to be imitators. Have you ever noticed that someone who moves down south after a while develops a southern accent? Why? That’s what they are around and eventually it rubs off and is adopted. This holds true for both words and actions.
If your children are friends with mischievous children, they likely will be mischievous. If they have been around liars, they too will likely start to lie. If they have friends who are kind, you will probably see your children become kinder. No proverb speaks louder to me as a father than 13:20: “He that walketh with wise men will be wise: but a companion of fools will suffer harm.”
Your child’s circle of friends matters a great deal. Is there a Judas or Theudas that has befriended them? Parents beware; you must take action of some sort or your child could end up being harmed in some way. Counsel your children to befriend like-minded children, followers of Christ. We do not want to alienate our children, but rather insulate them with good counsel, prayer, and the word of God. Encourage them to reach out to the lost but develop relationships with the saved.
I am all about souls being saved, but do not deceive yourself into thinking that your 8 or 10 year old is hanging with “Johnny mischief” to redeem him, unless they really are. (It is possible, but not likely.) Encourage your children to pray for the lost and hurting, but instruct them to not be unequally yoked with them. The last thing any parent wants is their child to be a causality of a “Theudas or Judas”. Keep praying, keep feeding them the word, keep instructing, counseling, and loving your children. It’s worth it. We are praying for your family.
By Collin Zweigle
I write to you from the warmth of one of my favorite coffee shops in Rochester on a blustery Thursday following the infamous windstorm that blew through our region leaving felled trees, damaged homes and vehicles, and power outages in its wake. I feel prompted to write about storms. You, the congregation of Koinonia Fellowship are not unfamiliar with the story of health issues, long distance support, and love that is the life of Collin Zweigle and Megan Farrell. When I think about our life and I think about the storms we have already endured even in our early 20’s it can become quite overwhelming. I share this with you because I believe in the concept of vulnerability. Vulnerability is a key component of communion (the fellowship of the believers). The schedule of doctors visits seems endless, the worry of the financial strain needed medications will cause in the future is looming. How do you go to graduate school and provide for your family? These are just a few of the questions and issues we find ourselves facing in this portion of a storm that has waves of intensity and moments of calm, but never really goes away.
This is the reality of life. We have our doubts, our struggles, and our questions. We have the moments where we think and even cry out, “Oh, God where are You now?” I think of the writings of David, when in great moments of depression and fear he would cry out to God. Recently I have been finding comfort and encouragement in the intense and often “angry sounding” music of rapper NF. This simple chorus:
“Oh Lord, oh Lord, do You see us down here?
Oh Lord, oh Lord”
Backed by soothing piano chords and synth sounds this music just meets me in those moments.
Later on in the bridge of the song these lyrics hit me pretty hard:
“You see the same God that you saying might not even exist
Becomes real to us, but only when we dying in bed
When ya healthy it's like, we don't really care for Him then
Leave me alone God, I'll call you when I need you again
Which is funny, everyone will sleep in the pews
Then blame God for our problems like He sleeping on you
We turn our backs on Him, what do you expect Him to do?
It's hard to answer prayers when nobody's praying to you”
So often I find myself forgetting to pray in those moments when everything is going well, and then something happens, or I am reminded of the weight that these medical struggles are on Megan’s heart and mind and I get woken up, reminded to pray. The lyrics of this song, and the realization of my own patterns and habits make me wonder how much easier would it be if I just maintained a regular, steady connection with the One who knows me best and loves me most. I don’t want there to have to be some serious situation that reminds me to pray, I want to just pray anyways. I want to be praying already and then, just continue the conversation with the King. He’s always listening, why don’t we talk to him more?
Recently I have been challenged to go into the secret place and to let that fuel my worship leading and my ministry. Will you go there with me? I challenge you to find that secret place where you meet with God naturally and comfortably. Start there and then continue the conversation as your day goes on. This is one of my goals for the Spring. Consider making it yours.
By Jordan Rowley
“… I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me… reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:12-14
“Pressing on” is not always easy. In fact, this phrase used here in Philippians implies a push, thrust, or drive – all of which require intentionality, energy and action. In it’s original Greek, the phrase means to “earnestly endeavor to acquire.” I like that. It serves as a good reminder to us all. As we walk out our faith, in what areas might we have settled into comfort or routine? And in what areas are we “earnestly endeavoring to acquire?” Notice, this does not mean simply earnestly longing or earnestly desiring, but earnestly endeavoring (trying, attempting, laboring) to acquire!
Personally, I’m endeavoring to “lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” But what has Jesus “laid hold of me” for? I think in general terms, that means my sanctification, but more specifically, it’s my calling and the work God has ordained for me from before I existed. (See Psalm 139:16, Ephesians 2:10.) Speaking of calling, last month I shared in an announcement that I believe God is calling me back to the mission field. Before coming on staff part-time at Koinonia as the Worship Director, I spent nearly 5 years serving as a missionary with a locally based organization called Climbing For Christ. Climbing For Christ (C4C), is a ministry blessed by God to reach out to remote and hard-to-reach mountainous places of the world and deliver the Good News of Jesus Christ where others cannot or will not. In the past my work with C4C has taken me numerous times to mountain villages in Haiti, Nepal, Peru, and even to the foot of Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Looking ahead I plan on traveling more to these places and others – including expeditions this year to Indonesia, Nigeria, and beyond. The work God calls us to in each of these places varies depending on the needs and the doors He allows to open before us. Here are a few examples. We’ve been blessed to provide food and clean water for emergency droughts, famines or disasters; to construct housing for widows; care for orphans; build churches; support schools; free brick-kiln factory slaves; and, of course, share the glorious Gospel all along the way – by God’s great grace.
How important is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead? The apostle Paul sees the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead as being the peg upon which the gospel hangs. “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures: and that He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, He was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all He was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-8)
Because the resurrection of Jesus was being questioned, Paul launches into a lengthy discourse about the importance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the Christian faith.
by Lynn Metier
“Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” (2 Corinthians 13:5)
Last month we briefly looked at some of the incredible blessings believers have “in Christ”, but this is only half of the spiritual picture of our lives. The other mind-boggling reality is that the Almighty God, Creator of the universe, dwells within every born again Christian! Because the true and living God is a Triune God, this means that we are indwelt by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (John 14:23; 1 Corinthians 3:16).
But what does this mean to have God living within us? First of all, it means that we now have more than just a physical existence, for we have received eternal life. God is the Source and Supplier of all life in every form and at every level of existence (John 1:3,4). But, while physical life is a gift from God, spiritual life is the gift of God (Romans 6:23b). Twice Jesus proclaimed Himself to be “the life.” (John 11:25, 14:6) Thus when a person is “born of the Spirit” (John 3:6,7), he/she receives the very life of the Risen Jesus! This means that God dwelling in us IS eternal life.
“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3) The only way to truly know someone is to live with that person. But Jesus, as Son of Man in human flesh, now dwells in heaven (Mark 16:19), and the other two-thirds of the Trinity exist only as Spirit (John 4:24, 14:17). So in order for His saints to be able to know Him in more than just a superficial way or in only an intellectual sense while we’re still on planet earth, God lives within us. Of course, He already knows all about us; in fact, He has always known us better than we know ourselves (Psalm 139:1-6,13-16). So the arrangement is definitely for our benefit; but God is glorified through it, as it reveals how gracious, gentle, and long-suffering He is with us. In fact, Paul wrote to the Colossians that “God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27) The previously unknown divine truth that after His death, resurrection, and ascension Jesus would choose to live in His people – which includes Gentiles – was revealed to the apostles, and seen as glorious. Furthermore, that fact that God now dwells in believers provides us the assurance of salvation and certainty of heaven.
By Lynn Metier
Could anything have been more unfair or seemed more WRONG than the brutal murder of Jesus Christ? It was demanded by the Jewish religious leaders and perpetrated by the highest civil authorities in the region, but they broke many of their own moral and legal laws to accomplish it! The trials were a total mockery of justice; the accusations, completely and utterly false. The violence - the Almighty Creator of the universe mercilessly beaten, bloodied, spat upon, and mocked at the hands of His creatures for whom He was suffering and dying! Jesus was completely innocent of all the charges made against Him. He was perfect, sinless, righteous, and always obedient toward His heavenly Father and gracious toward His fellow man. Jesus is the only one born of a woman who NEVER sinned and, therefore, did not deserve to die; but His death is the most noteworthy in all of human history. "Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. By oppression and judgment He was taken away; He was cut off out of the land of the living, for the transgression of my people was He stricken. Yet it pleased the LORD to crush Him, putting Him to grief ". (Isaiah 53:4,5,8,10)
By Collin Zweigle
2017 is a new year. For many in America 2016 was a year filled with pain, frustration, and anger. In many ways our nation has been torn asunder through racial and political division. Healing is needed. Honesty is needed. Forgiveness and reconciliation are needed.
As followers of Christ we are called to emulate Jesus. I think of the woman caught in adultery, brought to Jesus and accused of breaking religious law and committing sin before God. I know you are familiar with the story, but the part that speaks to me the most is when Jesus addresses this woman directly. “Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir,’ she said. ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’” (John 8:10-11, NIV) This is true forgiveness. If we want to see restoration in our nation we must be able to look into the eyes of those we feel have done wrongly, and say, “Neither do I condemn you.” Too often I hear believers in conversation or in Facebook posts speaking out in condemnation, making huge blanket statements about movements or organizations, condemning them because there have been a handful of people “associated” with these organizations who have misrepresented the things they actually stand for. I wonder then why we are so confused and frustrated when people want nothing to do with the church and with Jesus.
In Matthew chapter 7 Jesus said, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (verses 1-5, NIV) Too often, we are the ones who throw the stones. Too often, we are the ones who condemn. Too often, we are the Pharisees bringing the woman caught in adultery to Jesus. Too often, we are the ones with a beam in our eye while we are fixated on the specks of others’ sins.
When I was growing up my mom would say, “His mercies are new every morning,” all the time. This was her way of reminding us that tomorrow was a new day and that God’s grace for that day couldn’t be cancelled out by our actions today. That phrase comes from a passage in Lamentations that says “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23, NIV) In 2017 may we have new mercies for those we feel have wronged us. May we put down our stones, and repent of our sins (the beams in our own eyes). Only when we do this can we play our part in the restoration the Lord wants to bring, His true “peace on earth.”
By Pastor Domenico Danesi
After praying and waiting on what to write regarding parenting I feel prompted to bear my heart as a father. This article will simply share some things that I have learned as a parent over the last 12.5 years. As many of you know my wife Leslee and I have been blessed with 6 children. We love each one so deeply that words cannot express the depth of our love toward them. We have laughed, cried, yelled, prayed, played, supported, and failed many times with our children.
I have discovered that being a parent involves equal parts of two things: joy and suffering. The verse I would pass along to a prospective parent is this: “… for the joy set before Him He endured the cross …” (Hebrews 12:2a). Yes the cross, an instrument of death, in the end can produce joy. When Jesus was carrying His cross up to Golgotha He was suffering; when He was nailed to the cross He was suffering; when He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), He was suffering. The joy that was set before Him was the end result, the joy of rejoining the Father and allowing those for whom He was praying in the time of suffering to now have the power to become the children of god, (John 1:11,12).
I am going to list some topics and areas from my heart that have come through joyous-suffering. The aim is to pass along wisdom for you as parents, to help you, to challenge you, and to encourage you.
By Pastor Domenico Danesi
As 2017 begins we get back into the regular rhythms of life. The holidays are behind us and everyday life continues. With a new year is also a new vision. New vision for your family, job, ministry, etc. It’s a time to thank God for giving you another year of life and to direct your attention to what He is calling you to do.
By Collin Zweigle
Excellence in worship is an imperative ingredient for creating a space for the Holy Spirit to come and move.
Colossians 3:23-25 says: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.”
I have a question. When did “whatever you do” become something that doesn’t apply to worship? Last I checked “whatever” means “whatEVER.” I’ve seen this in the church and at times I’ve seen this in MYSELF. At times worship leaders get to a point where they feel confident enough in themselves as musicians, or feel that they have enough songs under their belts to get by, and they stop pushing themselves forward as a worship leader or a musician.
I share this because I have been there. When I was a young budding worship leader I would spend hours on the computer charting songs, pausing and playing a track all the way through until I had every word and every chord typed out on a Word Doc. The computer I had wasn’t hooked up to the internet to allow me to copy and paste chord charts or download MP3s. I had to get songs from CDs and type every word and phrase out myself. This was a meticulous process, but happily I did this for countless songs. I would slap a capo on my guitar and figure out where I could play “in the key of C or G” and I would try all the different chord combinations I knew until I had each chart as perfect as I possibly could. I cared about what I was doing so much and was willing to put the work in to make it as excellent as possible. I wanted my charts to be perfect. This might seem like a silly example, but as a young worship leader this was “being excellent” for me.
Hebrews 11:13-16 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
By Lynn Metier
As we move along in our Christian "walk", it is not unusual to encounter mountains. Some winters we've been forced to deal with mountains of snow in the physical realm, and many have learned the lesson that moving these mountains takes much time and effort, if done in our own strength. (Not only that, but they frequently re-materialize!) Perhaps you have encountered other mountains in your life - recurring patterns of difficulties in financial matters, or health issues, or struggles with emotions, such as anger or fear, or vexing relationships, etc. No matter how many times you seem to finally get on top, you suddenly realize you're facing another mountain. It can get discouraging, even overwhelming, but that most certainly is not God's intent in allowing us to encounter what often seem to be insurmountable obstacles. Just as the Old Testament accounts of the lives and struggles of God's people are picture stories of the Kingly teachings and heavenly principles found in the New Testament, so too these "mountains" of adversity and difficulty are tangible lessons in our temporal world that reflect spiritual realities our Lord would have us discern. Think of the reflection of a mountain in a lake. So too our experiences in the physical realm of this life can be merely reflections of spiritual struggles and obstacles, which are actually more "real" because they are the causes of the reflections. Often, however, we become so focused on the reflection that we fail to see the causative mountain looming overhead.
By Lynn Metier
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14 NASB)
This is a familiar Christmas passage, but it is interesting to look at the context from which it comes (Isaiah 7). Ahaz, king of Judah, was fearful because his kingdom was anticipating an attack by the forces of the kings of rebellious Israel and Syria. The LORD sent Isaiah the prophet – along with his son, whose name meant “a remnant shall return” – to Ahaz to reassure him, telling him, “Take care and be calm, have no fear and do not be fainthearted because of these two stubs of smoldering firebrands…” Even though the plan those kings were formulating was for evil against Judah, GOD unequivocally stated, “It shall not stand nor shall it come to pass.” And the LORD told Ahaz to ask for a sign, to request a proof from God that what He was telling him would actually become reality. Ahaz, in disobedience, refused to ask for a sign; but that is when the prophet told him (and us) what would be the indication that God’s word would come to pass, that the enemies of God’s people would be defeated – namely, the virgin birth.
Wow! Did you catch that? The birth of Jesus, which we celebrate each year at Christmas, is God’s indication, His promise really, that our enemies – Satan and sin and death – would be defeated. Of course we know (at least theologically), being on this side of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, that those enemies have already been conquered – Hallelujah! – and Christ is seated triumphantly on heaven’s throne (Ephesians 1:20). But we’re still living in the confines of time on this sin-sick and cursed planet where our enemies are still very busy causing problems and grief. However, no matter what the enemies’ plans are against God’s people, no matter how much noise or smoke the attackers generate to try to shake us up, God says they are has-beens – “smoldering firebrands” – doomed to defeat. And the proof of that is Christ’s birth, which is probably the most well-known and well-documented birth in all of human history!
But this unusual birth would be much more than just a sign, because the Child who was born would Himself bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. The New Testament sheds further light upon this remarkable prophecy. “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.” (Matthew 1:21-23) The miraculous result of the virgin birth is “God with us”. The human baby born to Mary is also the only begotten Son of God (1 John 4:9). And He came with a mission, which even His name proclaims, as the angel had explained to Joseph (Matthew 1:21). Yeshua (the Hebrew name translated in Greek as Jesus) means The LORD saves.