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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.

 

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.

 

Behold!

Jordan Rowley

If there were ever a description of a man in the Bible that I would strive to have true in my own life, it’s the description of John the Baptist. In the book of John 1:6-8 we find this precious text referring to his life and ministry: “There was a man sent from God named John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.” 

I don’t know about you, but this portion of Scripture speaks loud and clear to my heart about my own life’s purpose, as well as the purpose of the Worship Ministry here at Koinonia Fellowship. It’s a humbling reminder that although a few of us may stand under the lights on the platform up front on Sunday mornings (or serve in some other visible area of ministry), we are not the Light. It’s not about us – at all. John the Baptist also knew that it wasn’t about him – at all. He would later declare in John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Amen to that! The Lord alone is the Light and we as His followers are simply to reflect that Light – for the glorification of God, for the edification of His people, and for the illumination of the lost.  

As it relates to the Worship Ministry, we are to “behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” as John the Baptist once more instructs us in John 1:29. In addition to looking to the Lamb and holding Him dear in our own hearts, we’re to provide an atmosphere for God’s people to “behold the Lamb” as well! This is really the core calling of any worship ministry. To provide a space and place where God’s people can simply behold the Lord our God. It’s then and there, in this space and place, that we see a beautiful picture of John 12:32 fulfilled: “and I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” Of course, this verse in it’s context is referring the the crucifixion of our Savior, but I think there’s truth in it for any worshipper as well. In fact, it’s true of all believers. As we lift up Jesus, whether in word or deed or song, He will draw men to Himself! So, brothers and sister in Christ, let’s lift Him together! 

 

 

 

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.  

 

An Open Door for the Gospel

Give thanks!

By Pastor Domenico Danesi

In the Book of Revelation the church of Philadelphia was told by Jesus that there was an open door for the gospel before them which no man could shut (Revelation 3:8). This is a wonderful reason to give thanks to God! This last September I was part of a team of six men who participated in the “Campus to the Capital Crusade.” The fruit that came from your prayers and giving was tremendous. I am also thankful for the encouragement received when I came back home. 

We live in a country that still permits us to proclaim the glorious gospel of grace and we need to take full advantage of it. We do not know how much longer we will “legally” be permitted to openly share the “Good News” with others. One way of demonstrating thanks for your salvation is by sharing the gospel in some way. We may not all be evangelists (Ephesians 4:11-13), but we certainly are all called to share the gospel and partake in the Great Commission (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19). 

I am always challenged by our brothers and sisters overseas who are being persecuted for the cause of Christ and the gospel. Voice of the Martyrs is such a powerful ministry. VOM helps inform us about what is happening in the persecuted church. We can pray, give monetarily, and offer hope and encouragement for those who are being tried for their faith in places all over the world. VOM offers a free monthly newsletter and I want to encourage you to subscribe at: www.vom.org. They also offer a free app.

Brothers and sisters, we need to redeem the time for the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16). As the Apostle Paul asked: “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how will they believe in Him in whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they be sent?” (Romans 10:14,15). I fully believe it to be scriptural that all of you reading this are called (1 Corinthians 7:17; Ephesians 4:1)! Some pray, some pay (give to the cause of the gospel), and some are sent. That is how the body of Christ works, and certainly a reason to be thankful.

Below is a list of thanksgiving items from the Crusade.

 

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! 

 

Ask

By Collin Zweigle

2016 has been a year marked by division, hatred, anger, war, violence, killing, death, disease, and all of the things that remind us that this world is not our home. As I write this to you we are just a few weeks out from the 2016 Presidential Election. I’m sure you have very strong feelings about this decision, as do I, but that’s not what church magazine articles are supposed to be about, right? Church magazine articles are supposed to be positive and encouraging, like K-Love. They’re supposed to lift our spirits and remind us that everything is going to be all right.

Well, my friends, if I told you that everything was going to be all right in our country I would be lying to you. Things are not going to be all right. Things are not good. When people are literally dying in our streets, things are not good. When the church is divided over something as simple as a presidential candidate, things are not good. When I hate my brother because I hate the man he’s voting for, things are not good. 

And then I’m reminded of that verse in James chapter 4. “You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.” (James 4:2 NIV) These things are heavy. The time we are living in is a time of heaviness and pain. When hearing about a homicide that literally happened ten minutes away from my house seems like “just something that happens in Rochester,” something is wrong; and that’s the time we’re living in.

Can I really ask God to change that? Can He really do something about it?

 

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.

 

Wednesday Night Warfare

By Domenico Danesi

It’s Wednesday night around 5pm and thoughts like these run through your head: “I’m tired, I’m going stay home tonight”; “I have so much to do”; “We are so busy, I need a break”. These and many other thoughts are just part of what I call, “Wednesday night warfare”. 

I have noticed that Wednesday afternoon is often when one of my children has a meltdown. My wife and I have a verbal disagreement (“growth session” ☺). The car is having problems. Dinner is not ready, the children have not eaten, and the list goes on and on. All of these issues are part of what I term, “Wednesday night warfare”.

As I have pondered why Wednesday night is often very challenging, here are some thoughts. 

•Paul wrote to the Corinthian church not be ignorant of Satan’s devices (2 Corinthians 2:11). We too should be aware of the enemy and the desires of our flesh to keep us from the things of God. Perhaps we are unaware of the warfare.

 

• It’s midweek and this is uncommon for church; therefore real connecting and discipleship can take place on Wednesday night at church. Satan does not like nor desire that for us.

 

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!  

 

The Producer

By Collin Zweigle

At this point it’s public knowledge that next summer I will be stepping down from my role as Youth Director at Koinonia Fellowship. This is not an article about that. That will come in due time. Don’t worry. The reason I mention that is this: when God moves you from one stage in life to the next He never does so without a purpose. As I look to my future with all of its uncertainties I am certain of one thing. God is calling me to create, to write, to compose. I feel that I am being hounded by the Holy One. Drawn, called, commissioned to create. He’s been speaking repeatedly about this in various ways. I know this will be specifically in the area of music. I’ve written songs from a very young age, but as I transition out of youth ministry I feel an almost magnetic pull towards music.

Are you familiar with the band Twenty-One Pilots? They are a two piece band that has taken the music world by storm within the past three years. Their music is all over the place with influences from rock, folk, hip-hop, dance music, and probably any other genre you could name. Now I love Twenty-One Pilots just because the music is awesome, but over the past year it came to my attention that the members of the band are believers. This changed the way I listened to their music. If you listen to their lyrics you’ll hear it. Little messages to a world that needs hope. Little reminders that the things this world has to offer will ultimately leave us unsatisfied and unfulfilled. I found out about a worship project that their singer Tyler Joseph is a part of and have had the album on repeat. The record is called “Clear” by the band Whittaker. The whole album is awesome but one song on it has hit me particularly. The song is called “Producer” and the lyrics in the bridge are: “You are the Producer / The Inventor of the Sea / You’re behind it all / You’re behind it all.”   

Who is the “Producer”?

 

Teaching Children to Give Thanks

By Pastor Domenico Danesi

Thanksgiving is often passed over in this consumer-driven society we live in. As soon as November 1st hits, people start thinking about Christmas. Shopping starts, malls are packed, people are scampering everywhere trying to frantically get a deal (often on a credit card). It is so ironic that during a season of thanks people are stressed out. Personally I love the simplicity of Thanksgiving. Jesus, family, food, friends and maybe some football ☺.  Thanksgiving should be a time of reflection on how much God has blessed us. 

Being unthankful is actually a sign we are in the last days (2 Timothy 3:1-4). We want to do all we can to encourage our children to give thanks every day, not just on Thanksgiving. A thankful parent will glorify God. A thankful parent will be encouraged and encourage others with their attitude. We have so much that truly we have nothing to complain about. 

How can we teach our children to be thankful during this holiday season? A family tradition we started many years ago was a “Thanks” Turkey. I will draw something that at least resembles a turkey with multiple feathers. My wife (Leslee) and I then go around to each of our 5 children (we also have baby Evangelina to be thankful for this year, so 6 total) and ask them what they are thankful for. We then write those things in the feathers of the turkey. It’s a simple family activity that makes the children reflect back on how much they truly have to be thankful for. They will list Jesus, family members, friends, animals, all kinds of things. We love hearing all that they are thankful for!  During this holiday season we must “teach thanksgiving”. It is not about gifts, eggnog, turkeys, stockings, hot cocoa, or anything else. It’s all about Jesus!

Here are some ideas for teaching thanks.

 

Finding Fulfillment

By Jordan Rowley

You and I can search long and hard for true satisfaction and never find it – especially if we’re continually looking in all the wrong places. “If only I had this spouse,” we may say, or “that house,” or “this career.” Or we may think, “If only this season of my life were over,” or, “If only this next bigger and better thing were here right now.” Beyond those common desires, we can even allow attaining a certain level of “holiness” become such a distraction that we miss the loving Lord right before our eyes. In other words, we can be so utterly discontent with where we are or what we have that we neglect the blessings right in front of us. 

“… ‘My people shall be satisfied with My goodness,’ says the Lord.” – Jeremiah 31:14

A few weeks ago, this Scripture hit me like a ton of bricks and blessed me to the core. I was immediately convicted, challenged, and comforted at the same time. I must confess that recently I just wasn’t satisfied in life. Maybe you’ve been in a similar boat before, or are struggling with that right now. Why? I think that all too often our minds either linger in the past or leap forward to the future and miss God’s goodness today. In spite of all we have, or don’t have, you and I must find our fulfillment in Christ alone – right here and right now. It is only in His goodness that we will be truly satisfied. Any other pursuit will leave us empty and unfulfilled. 

So, we could pray, “Lord, please satisfy me with Your goodness,” but we don’t really need to.



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