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Wise Worship

By Pat Tharp

The Christmas season is here, and the onslaught of media and advertisements has been pounding us since Black Friday. As Christians, we want to “Keep Christ in Christmas,” so we avoid the traditional Santa Claus and Reindeer themes that are everywhere. We’d say that that was “unbiblical.” But equally unbiblical is the tradition of the “3 wise men” coming to the Nativity scene after Jesus’ birth. 

The only reference to these men in the four Gospels is in the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 2. Putting the Gospel narratives together we learn that these men, who are not numbered, came from afar to worship Jesus and offer him gifts. Wicked King Herod feeling threatened by another “King” tries to discover Jesus’ location to kill Him. The wise men actually meet Jesus and His mother “in a house,” (Matthew 2:11) and Jesus may have been as old as 2 years.  

This reality is quite different from the Christmas cards and Nativity Scenes that we are used to in the celebration of Christ’s birth. But despite those inconsistencies between the cultural Christmas and the Biblical account, we still have much to learn from the wise men and from King Herod on what “real worship” is.

Reading Matthew Chapter 2 we see a great contrast between these 2 groups and very practical lessons for us as we consider if our corporate worship is “real” or “religious.”

  • Real worship takes time
  • Real worship has a purpose
  • Real worship is determined
  • Real worship is joyful
  • Real worship is sacrificial
  • Real worship produces obedience

Real worship takes time...like the wise men, who had to take a long trip and make specific and intentional preparations to worship, we must do the same. If worship is important to you, you will go to bed early to be physically ready in the morning; you will arrange your responsibilities to be “on time” because it is a priority, not an “option” because “the word is more important.” Worship is just as important.

Gratitude

By Pastor Ben Hiwale

One day Jesus encountered thanklessness on road that lay between Samaria and Galilee." The story is found in Luke 17.

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!"

Jesus is called aside by the plaintive shouts of men afflicted with a serious skin condition that present-day translators render as leprosy. Surely, they must have thought, if Jesus could cure the blind, heal the lame, and raise the dead, he had the power to help them too. They were already outcasts and had nothing to lose, so they raised their voices in desperate hope.

When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests."

The Master simply tells them to go to the priests, who were the first-century referees as to whether a healing had taken place. Any cure, according to the Book of Leviticus, would need the equivalent of a "Good Housekeeping seal of approval" so that the formerly unclean could be ritually restored to the community.

Will they go? How can they, since Jesus has done nothing outwardly to assure them of a cure?  This was a trial of their obedience. How would they respond to the Lord's ambiguous command? Something in the reputation of Jesus, or perhaps in the way He looked them in the eye, encouraged them that they had met not divine indifference, but God's mercy, on the road.

And as they went, they were cleansed. Note the progression: "as they went, they were cleansed." The obedience precedes the healing.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

Until this point, the 10 lepers had acted in concert: they had lived together, they had cried out together, they had gone off together, and they had been cleansed together. Now, however, one peels off like a jet leaving formation and heads for Jesus. Whatever has happened, the man knows he has been blessed, and the blessing requires a response. First he sees, then he turns, then he praises.

And then, with the Samaritan still humbly at Jesus' feet, come three pointed, rapid-fire questions, which cast a shadow over the celebration.

 

The Power Of Music: Part 1

By Pat Tharp

Recently somebody expressed to me after a night of praise and worship how blessed they were; and made the comment that we could actually save people money from not having to go to a counselor, if they would just come and sing to Jesus.

That got me thinking; music is more powerful than we realize. Music has the emotional and informational power to shape culture, countries, and kingdoms.

When Stalin took control of Russia, all composers were expected to write optimistic and patriotic music for the masses. There was no room for dissension or free thought that opposed the Soviet Union’s political and social regime.

Similarly, when Hitler took over Germany, he implemented a propaganda machine called, “The Ministry for Public Enlightenment.” This government office while working with the SS and Gestapo, enforced through the local Chamber of Commerce, conformity to Nazi doctrine and their ideological actions. All streams of music, movies, art, radio and newspapers came under the control of their authority.

The “Hitlerjugend” or “Hitler Youth” movement incorporated boys and girls into their training and indoctrination. A memo from this group records this, “Songs possess the strongest community-building power. Thus we use them deliberately at those moments when we want to waken the consciousness of being part of a community, in order to deepen the power of such an experience.”

These monsters of history and even modern musicians understand this. Bono said, “Music can change the world, because it can change people.”  It was the philosopher Kant who once called music, “The quickening art.” 

Have You Come To Worship?

Did you know that people come to Church for different reasons? Some people come because it eases their conscience, a little religion is good for them. Some people come because they are looking for some business contacts. Some people come because they are looking for a boyfriend or girlfriend. Some come because it’s a friendly social environment and it’s easy to come and go and stay under the radar. Some people come because of a dynamic preacher, a gifted band, or fun activities for their kids. Church to them is kind of like a food buffet, take what you want and pass on the vegetables. Have it your way.

While only Jesus can truly see the heart and motives, I have a question for you. Have you come to worship? 

There is an old Gospel song I remember singing many years ago when I attended an urban church that met at a hotel. The music was upbeat, full of emotion, expressive, and dripping with joy. It was called, “I don’t know what you come to do.” It was kind of a call and response song.

The chorus said, “I don’t know what you come to do, but I came to praise the Lord.” The verse declared, “I come to clap my hands, I come to do my dance, I come to lift his name, I come to give him praise, Come on and shout for joy, Making a joyful noise, Been so good to me!”

Have I come to worship? Worship, traditionally is at the beginning of the service. Do I make an effort to go to bed early to get up in time to be in the service ready to sing with the Church family? Am I listening to the announcements with excitement and anticipation and grateful joy to what Jesus is doing and what He has opened for us to be apart of? As I hear the word am I attentive with holy respect and awe as I respond with loving obedience to what I hear? That is worship, 1 Samuel 15:22.

Have we really come to worship as we gather each week? I have noticed that when I purpose to worship, it seems others worship. When others worship, it’s almost as if a holy virus spreads across the hearts of God’s people. It is contagious, it is beautiful, and it is a blessing.

East Rochester, Our Jerusalem

By Jack Janson

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8

As I was preparing to go to India with Pastor Ray this past October, I attended a prayer meeting at church. I got a conviction from the Lord that I was called to be a witness. Surprisingly, the burden I felt was not for India or some other far-away place; it was for right here in East Rochester, the hometown of our Fellowship

The whole time I was away and after I returned, the thought kept coming back to me: East Rochester is my Jerusalem. I’m not an evangelist, but I started praying that the Lord would show me how to bring the good news of the gospel to this village. I knew he was going to have to lead me, because I wasn’t going to get there on my own 

Like sheep without a shepherd

But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they were scattered and weary, as sheep having no shepherd. Matthew 6:36

This verse really speaks to me about the condition of our culture today. Behind the closed doors of their tidy homes, many people in East Rochester face problems that we associate with the inner city. There is hunger, drug and alcohol addiction, teenage delinquency, and prostitution.

Over half the households are led by single mothers. Even if they manage to avoid major problems, people today are “scattered and weary,” overloaded by the burdens of work and family, trying to make ends meet and keep it all together. We are all lost sheep in need of a guiding hand.

 

When I said the Sinner’s Prayer, was I saved?

The “sinner’s prayer” probably evolved, in some form or another, in the early days of the Protestant Reformation movement, as a misguided reaction against the Roman Catholic dogma of justification by means of meritorious works.  For example, Jacobus Faber (c. 1450-1536), who has been called “the father of the French reformation” (though he never formally left the Catholic Church), wrote a commentary on the epistles of Paul in 1512. (This was five years before Luther’s break with the Roman Church in Germany.) In this volume Faber argued that justification is obtained through faith without works (see McClintock & Strong 1969, p. 441).

Later, rebelling against the “merit works” system of Romanism, Luther would contend that salvation is on the basis of “faith alone.” Many are debating the significance, validity and propriety of the Sinner's Prayer! What's the world coming to when we can't even count on Evangelicals to unswervingly defend the faith once delivered to the saints? The Sinner's Prayer has recently been suspect in influential evangelical circles.

The Sinner's Prayer rose from the mist of evangelical revivalism, and is in many ways a work of genius, as brilliant as the simple formulations of Martin Luther (Sola fide! Sola Scriptura!). It comes in many flavors, but it generally contains two elements: repentance for sin and trust in Christ's redemptive work at the Cross for forgiveness. The prayer assumes absolute dependence on God's grace (we do not "cooperate" with grace); trust in Christ's lordship ("accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior"); and union with Christ (as in, "inviting Christ into my heart"). Some versions are theologically better than others, and there are often more felicitous ways to express its truths. But if we recognize that the Sinner's Prayer is not systematic theology but a heartfelt expression of faith in Christ, we would not argue.

Main St. temporarily closed on Wednesday evening, July 23

Main Street will be temporarily closed from Elm Street to the Avenue beginning at 4:00 PM on Wednesday, July 23 for a town event - a concert and Chicken BBQ in the park. Access to the church for regular Wednesday evening activities is available from East Avenue. 

 

The Power of Music: Part 2

Last month we looked at the “power of music”, how it has been used for good and for bad in history, in society, and in very practical health matters. The Bible has much to say about music and much to share about how it was used in the lives of God’s people and their history.

Music was used in the nation of Israel to teach them God’s word, to recount God’s faithfulness, to celebrate present victories, and to pass on information to the next generation. Exodus 15:1-21 records a song of celebration after God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt. Songs of praise give us an occasion to be thankful for God’s victory in our lives.  Deborah and Barak sang a duet of triumph after their victory in Judges 5. And the women of Israel sang the great victories of David, and the lesser victory of King Saul in 1 Samuel 18:7; that didn’t go over very well with Saul.

Songs were used as laments to express great grief, 2 Samuel 3:33. Songs were sung to commemorate new works of God; 2 Chronicles 29:30 records Ezra and the remnant sang responsively to the work God had done in restoring them from captivity. Nehemiah and the people sang as the walls of Jerusalem were restored, Nehemiah 12:42b. King Jehoshaphat sent the singers before the army to praise the beauty of God’s holiness, and without lifting a spear, their enemies were defeated, 2 Chronicles 20:1-25.

The entire books of Psalms are songs that were sung. They record songs for every season and reason in life. They speak of seasons of sorrow, faith, hope, and help. Someone once said, “For every sigh, there’s a Psalm.”

Music led by the Spirit of God can drive demonic and oppressive spirits away. When David played his harp before Saul, Saul became refreshed and the distressing spirit would depart from him, 1 Samuel 16:23.

Elisha the prophet called for a musician to play before him, and as he did the hand of the Lord came upon Elisha and he began to prophecy, 2 Kings 3:15.

America Through the Years

By Pastor Ben Hiwale

America became a free country on July 4, 1776; however, what many may not know - or remember - is that America is also a nation under God founded on Christian principles.

54 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were Christians, 27 held theology degrees. Our first president, George Washington, took the oath of office and put his hand on what? (The Bible).  What was his first official act as President? (Kissed the Bible, then held a 2-hour praise & worship session in Congress). How did they determine to open sessions of Congress? (Prayer). Who would lead in those prayers? (Chaplains). How would they be paid? (Tax dollars). Does all of that sound like they wanted to keep God out of government? By the way, opening in prayer is a mystery to investigate. Why is it that the little boys and girls cannot, but the big Congressmen can? Who decided to put “In God We Trust” on our coins? (Because they pulled a fast one on a government that wanted to keep God out of government!) Congress adopted it in 1956!

In 1776, 11 of the 13 colonies required that one had to be a Christian to be eligible to run for political office. In 1777, the Continental Congress voted to spend $300,000 to purchase Bibles for distribution in the nation. The GETTYSBURG ADDRESS states "...this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom..." 94% OF THE WRITINGS OF THE FOUNDING FATHERS OF THE U.S. CONTAINED QUOTATIONS FROM THE HOLY SCRIPTURES. THE STATE CONSTITUTIONS OF ALL 50 STATES MENTION GOD.

On that First "Thanksgiving", who do you think the people were giving thanks to? To God!

The famous "Liberty Bell" has part of Leviticus 25:10 inscribed on it: "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”

 

The 4-Fold Ministry Philosophy of Koinonia Fellowship

By Pastor Ray Viola

The vision statement of Koinonia Fellowship is on the back of our monthly Kerusso church magazine. Since the very inception of this church in December of 1984, this statement has been the biblical, driving motivation for why Koinonia exists as a local church. To know Christ. To grow in Christ. To proclaim Christ. To glorify Christ.

It has been the deep conviction of my colleagues in ministry and myself that this vision statement is something that needs to be presented to you and embraced by each and every one of you who call Koinonia Fellowship your church family. We will take each one of these vision statements individually with the goal of inspiring you to use your God-given gifts both inside and outside of these church walls for the glory of God.

I lay no claim to originality in this vision statement. I believe wholeheartedly that this vision statement is Scripture-based, God-centered, Christ-exalting, and led by The Holy Ghost. This vision statement is not meant for a select few; it is directed towards each and every one of you who call Koinonia your church home. Each one of you is important to Jesus and important to us as well. Just as you depend on every part of your body to do its job, we depend on each and every one of you to step up and step into your God-given role.

At times, these four statements may overlap, and that is because they are woven together within scripture. They are more than "biblical principles" or a set of "how to's". Every statement has a relational aspect on the vertical and horizontal levels. They are both personal and interactive. They will invade our personal "comfort and convenience zones" for the simple reason that there is no way to comfortably or conveniently die to self to live for the glory of God. Each one of these statements are verbs. They require action, discipline and devotion, first of all to Jesus Christ, and secondly, to one another. We are to be engaged in these things in season and out of season. When we feel like it, and when we do not feel like it. When the conditions are favorable or not so favorable. No retreat. No excuses. No regrets.

This isn't about building Koinonia. This is about being Christ-like disciples for the glory of God. This is about harvesting souls with the gospel of Jesus Christ for the glory of God. This is about being a Word-based, God-centered, Christ-exalting, gospel-preaching, disciple-making church for the glory of God. For it is only when we say, “for me to live is Christ”, that we can then say, “and to die is gain”.

TO KNOW CHRIST

John 17:3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

Knowing Christ is the foundation of our faith. Jesus Christ is The Solid Rock of our salvation. At the final judgment, the basis of who spends eternity with Christ is by whether or not you know Him.

 

Is the Church Caught between Methods and Message?

 

By today’s standards in the American church, Jesus wasn’t cut out to be a pastor, nor would His ministry be highlighted as a model for church planters. Consider these facts:

Jesus had the greatest preaching, teaching and healing ministry in history. Thousands came to hear Him, followed His every move and lined the streets to get a glimpse of Him or simply touch Him. Yet amid His rock-star popularity, He intentionally offended religious leaders, challenged potential mega-donors and weeded out casual followers with tough teachings. Not exactly the textbook strategy you’d find today to grow your church, much less your Facebook likes and Twitter followers.

After Jesus spent three and a half years ministering to thousands, His church consisted of only 120 disciples gathered in the upper room. And even that was a low turnout, considering He had appeared to more than 500 people after His resurrection (1 Cor. 15:6).

But we know the rest of the story: how the 120 quickly became 3,120 and grew daily to where even unbelievers credited Jesus’ followers as those “who have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). The truth is, we know that Jesus’ divine church-growth tactics surpass all others—with the proof being a global church that, 2,000 years later, refuses to die while it works to fulfill His Great Commission.

Why, then, do we in the 21st-century American church focus on all the elements that Jesus didn’t? He focused on training and equipping 12 disciples; we focus on growing our crowds and spheres of influence, regardless of whether those people follow Jesus. He preached an uncompromising message of truth; we sugarcoat the gospel until we’re saccharine-high on deception. He walked among His enemies in love; we ostracize our enemies by blasting them for all their sins.

Indeed, most of the U.S. church is enamored with size over substance and microwave growth over true reproduction. Research shows that while 235 million people call themselves Christians, only 40 percent of those meet regularly with fellow believers and only a fourth (at most) read the Bible on a regular basis. It’s time we discovered the marks of the real church, measured by Jesus’ standards rather than our own trendy metrics. 

 

Dealing with the Obvious

By Pastor Ben Hiwale

It's not "the culture," as we often hear, that poses the most significant challenge for the church today. It's the culture of the church.  We have reduced the Gospel to an abstract message of salvation that can be believed without having any necessary consequences for how we live. In contrast, the redemption announced in the Bible is clearly understood as restoring human thriving in creation.

Redemption is not just a restoration of our status before God through the life and work of Jesus Christ, but a restoration of our relationship with God as well. And our relationship with God is expressed in how we live. Salvation is about God's restoring our whole life, not just one invisible aspect of our being (our soul), but our life as lived out in the world in ways that are in keeping with how God made us. The goal of salvation is blessedness for us as human beings. In other words, we are saved so that our way of life can be fully in keeping with God's ordering of reality.

There is no question, we have been influenced too much by the broader culture.  The dominant role of technology in our lives promotes the deep assumption that we can fix anything. The way we allow proliferating mechanisms of convenience erodes the virtues of patience and longsuffering. The way in which we allow the elimination of standards of public propriety and manners undermines assumptions about the legitimacy of authority and deference to the communal needs; and the way in which the high prestige accorded to entertainers creates the conviction that every valuable experience should be entertaining. This is just scratching the surface.

How can the Church be relevant to the way of life of its neighbors? True seekers are looking for something different, radically different. If people are just looking for a religious band-aid or spiritual Prozac, they are not seeking the redemption promised in the Gospel, which calls them to die to self and live (really live) to Christ. If I were drowning, the most relevant reality I could long for would be someone who was a really good swimmer. If my house were on fire, I would want a man with a hose, not a lighter. If my life were plunged into darkness, light would be the most relevant thing imaginable.

Word Watching

There’s an old adage that we’d do well to follow. It is: “Say what you mean, and mean what you say.” After all, God does. To question the Lord’s intentions, or doubt His accuracy or truthfulness is to be of a devilish mindset (Genesis 3:1,4). But to always speak truthfully, and that includes speaking with complete accuracy with regards to spiritual reality, is contrary to our fallen human nature (Isaiah 6:5), and we need to be aware of that battlefront.

I recently heard someone say, “Third time’s the charm.” Not for Christians! Instead of mindlessly agreeing with that saying, we need to realize that our faithful God, who is “working in us that which is pleasing in His sight” (Heb 13:21), patiently and repeatedly prompts us to keep trying until we get things right, or learn to persevere! The reality is there is no such thing as ‘luck’ (‘good’ or ‘bad’!), ‘fortune,’ ‘mis-fortune’ or ‘chance’ (in the mystical sense of those words), (magic) ‘charms’, etc., for those who truly believe in an almighty, sovereign God, so we need to be very careful how we use those words. Don’t they make us sound like the world? Charms, luck, chance, etc., are part of the vocabulary of superstition, witchcraft, and paganism – denying the reality and power of God. “ ‘But I say to you that for every idle (or careless) word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.’ ” (Matthew 12:36,37) Jesus said that. Do you think He means it? “God is not a man, that He should lie, … has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19) He also warned: “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” (Luke 12:2,3) While these verses certainly pertain to gossip and other types of wicked speech, they can also be applied to words spoken carelessly or in ignorance, which are contrary to the reality of our salvation. God knows everything we say and even think (Psalm 139:4), and He is fully aware of our lack of comprehension (darkness) behind too much of it.

“So what’s the big deal?” you might ask. “They’re only words; they’re harmless.” Are they? Proverbs 18:21 declares: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue,” and James warns us about its use and misuse (James 3:1-10). We don’t really comprehend the power of words or their effect in the spiritual realm. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11) Remember, God uses ordinary people to speak His word so that He alone will receive the glory for the extraordinary results (2 Corinthians 4:7). Remember also that our God spoke the universe into existence out of nothing (Psalm 33:9)! That’s POWER! 



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