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Joyous Suffering

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.

 

 

Excellence in Worship

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.

 

Living for Heaven

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.  

 

The Message of Christmas

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.

 

An Upward Calling 

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. 

 

Remembering Our True Citizenship

Jordan Rowley 

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 3:20

Some people are more forgetful than others. Personally, I’ve had to put more than a few routines in place in my own life to remember certain things (like car keys or my phone or to pick something up from the store on the way home). In addition to being forgetful of those somewhat trivial things, I for one am so prone to forget, or at least lose focus of more important things – like the fact that my citizenship is in heaven. Have you ever lost focus of that? We can get so caught up in the cares and concerns of this earthly life that we seem to forget our heavenly life. One brother reminded me of this recently with a quick encouragement. “Keep looking down, bro,” he said. I must have given him a look that responded, “Is that supposed to be encouraging!? Shouldn’t I keep my eyes up instead!?” Then he finished his reminder, “You’re seated in heavenly places.” Amen to that! 

Over the past few years I’ve been blessed to do quite a bit of international traveling to some very physically and spiritually impoverished places. One thing I always do, upon every return to the U.S., is give thanks for my citizenship here as I sing or hum to myself “God Bless America” while going through Customs. Security or other travelers may look at me a little funny, but I don’t care. This is a special nation we live in with so many blessings and freedoms. But brothers and sisters, how much greater is our final destination – our true homeland from which we are pilgrims and sojourners here on this earth. This is not a citizenship that we have been naturally born into but one that has been received by faith. Although it is freely given to all, it was not freely acquired. This is a citizenship that had to be purchased – the price however, we could never afford. Yet, in the face of our spiritual poverty, Jesus stepped in and purchased that citizenship for us in indescribable grace and mercy that stretches far beyond our understanding. The price was so high, in fact, it cost Him His own life, given for us on an agonizingly brutal cross. As blood poured out of the innocent Lamb of God and He breathed His last, all of the many things that kept us from heaven were put to death forever right on that cross. Colossians 2:14 puts it like this: “having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” Hallelujah! In this way, He purchased our freedom, our forgiveness, our redemption, our restoration, our eternal citizenship in heaven! 

Today, with our citizenship assured, we are destined for glory. Destined for the Lamb’s supper. Destined for heaven “from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior.” This month, may we not only remember and celebrate the first coming of our Christ, but may we eagerly await His return! And brothers and sisters, as we wait, may we do as all of the other citizens of heaven are doing right now – worship. There are countless verses that give us a glimpse into the sound of the heavenly realm. It is a continuous song of praise and thanks that we can’t begin to imagine. But we can join in this side of heaven and make our own joyful noise. May we lift our voices and sing songs that reflect our true citizenship. May we simply remember our true citizenship, live lives that reflect that truth, and keep looking down.  

 

Christ in Us

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.

 

What a Performance!  

By Pastor Domenico Danesi

The Christmas season is here and with it comes the need to remember the greatest performance known to mankind. A performance is defined as the event which verifies the promise. The supernatural birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is indeed that event which verified the promise of God made in the Old Testament of a Savior to come.

In the athletic arena performances are remembered for decades - a basketball player who scores a lot of points in a single game; a football player who scores 5 or 6 touchdowns in a single game; a runner who runs the mile near 4-minutes. In the performing arts a concert, solo, or recital of some type may be labeled as “the greatest”. Surely we remember great moments in history, such as July 20, 1969, when Apollo 11 landed on the moon, and November 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down. Who can forget the words of President Ronald Reagan? “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall!”

In Luke 1:35 we have some of the most famous words spoken by the Angel Gabriel to Mary: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” This performance was going to be one for the ages! The Holy Ghost and The Highest (the Father) were going to work as a team and supernaturally put the seed of baby Jesus (the Son) inside the womb of the Virgin Mary. There is not an orchestra, athlete, soloist out there that can come anywhere near competing with this miraculous performance! 

 

Specks

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.” 

 

 

IN CHRIST

 

“For in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).  

Paul was stating a general truth to unbelievers when he said this; namely, that all of creation is continually in the presence of God because He is always aware of everything that is happening in all realms of the universe. But for those who have been born spiritually into the family of God, we have the profound reality of being “in Christ”. Let’s consider a little of what this means.

First of all, our salvation is in Christ; that is, we have been redeemed by the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and the perfect and holy God the Father accepts us. Ephesians 1:5-7: (He) “predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself…to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace”. When we had our spiritual birth, we became new creations in Christ, which has always been the plan of God for “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). Furthermore, God’s grand, eternal purpose for all of creation centers in Jesus Christ: “In the dispensation of the fullness of the times He (will) gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth.” (Ephesians 1:10) At the consummation of the ages, all of creation in both physical and spiritual realms will be under Christ’s perfect headship and complete rule. 

As believers, our present times as well are in Christ. We are “blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ”, and “in Him we have obtained an inheritance” (Ephesians 1:3,11). Part of this inheritance is heaven and in the future, but we are already spiritually, positionally “seated…in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). In short, “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20), but that doesn’t mean (as the saying goes) that we’re to be “so heavenly-minded that (we’re) no earthly good”! God leaves believers on earth as a practical testimony of how He progressively changes us from sinners to saints in Christ to do His will. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) Furthermore, Colossians tells us that all the fullness of God dwells in Jesus and that believers are “complete in Him” (2:10). Since God is outside of time and His word is unchanging and true, the future is the same as the past to Him and our perfection is a “done deal” in His sight. Even though we do not yet experience this completion in our life on earth (practically), to God we are already whole and holy, victorious over our flesh, perfect in all ways, and lacking nothing (positionally) because He sees us IN CHRIST! This not only applies to each of us individually, but to all believers collectively as “one body in Christ” (Romans 12:5). In Him we have the present blessing of fellowship with one another, that sweet, harmonious unity we experience in the Spirit of Christ.

 

Old Paths – New Vision

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.

 

A Message to Single Moms

from Carol Hoppe, Single Moms Ministry

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me

To preach good tidings to the poor;

He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,

To proclaim liberty to the captives,

And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,

And the day of vengeance of our God;

To comfort all who mourn,

To console those who mourn in Zion,

To give them beauty for ashes,

The oil of joy for mourning,

The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;

That they may be called trees of righteousness,

The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

Isaiah 61:1-4

As I was reading my Bible this morning, words began jumping out at me… and I immediately thought of you…yes you!  



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