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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.

 

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! 

 

 

 

Change; it creeps up on you. As you’re reading this I have hopefully started my senior year at Nazareth and am just one step closer to being a fully certified Speech Language Pathologist. My senior year! It has sneaked up on me.

I think of Moses, a man who was once the prince of Egypt and was educated and raised in riches and honor. One day he makes some decisions (killing an Egyptian slave driver) which lead to him fleeing his home and finding himself living in the Sinai wilderness with a group of people called the Midianites. These drastic changes lead to Moses being in a place where he could hear God speaking to him through a fiery bush.

Many of us respond very negatively to change. This summer Fuego, my favorite coffee shop in Rochester, moved locations. The weekend they moved I remember sitting there drinking the same wonderful espresso drinks they always make, but it wasn’t the same as their original location. To sum up my feelings in one word I would say I was “uncomfortable.”

Change made me uncomfortable. I didn’t like the new white washed walls and metallic furniture. I didn’t like that there wasn’t a bar where I could sit and talk with my friends while they made me coffee each time I came in. I didn’t even like the huge floor-to-ceiling windows that let tons of light in and offer wonderful views of the city. My feelings towards these things were not because there was anything particularly bad about them. There is nothing bad about the new location. It’s actually more convenient for me. I felt uncomfortable simply because something I was used to and had grown to love changed. It physically moved. It looks different now. It feels different. It actually smells about the same, though, because there’s still the same wonderful coffee being brewed there each day. But the thing that is most significant about all of this is that change made me uncomfortable.

If we contrast my coffee shop example with Moses’ origin story we’ll see that he was somewhere very comfortable, literally Pharaoh's palace.

 

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.

A team of 7 men will be participating in the “Campus to the Capital Crusade”, starting out on Monday, September 19, 2016. In case you’re a little fuzzy on the concept, a crusade is an organized and energized campaign for a specific cause. Our cause is the most important one there is – proclaiming the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Back in February I invited 12 men to come to the first meeting for the Crusade. Since then the team has been reduced to 7 and we have gathered 4 times for meetings and prayer. Our last meeting was a cookout where we had all the families together to invite them into the vision of the Crusade. Each member shared his heart on why he is going and what it means to him. We all prayed together – men, women, and children – and we also made some final arrangements for the physical part of the Crusade.

These 7 men are the visible aspect of the crusade, but they are in reality “just the tip of the iceberg”. As every evangelist knows the true and most important work in any crusade is unseen because it is spiritual. And this is where you, the reader, come in. You can be a part of the spiritual battle for the minds and hearts and eternal souls of the people God will bring across our path on the college campuses and at our nation’s capital – and even at the coffee shops and motels we will stop at. We don’t want to limit what God plans to do through us, so please pray! Pray for the Lord to go before us so that we might find favor and be allowed access where the Lord would lead us to go. Pray for the Holy Spirit to prepare and draw those individuals He plans for us to minister to, and for His filling and anointing for every encounter.

We know that God alone can open the eyes of those blinded by Satan. It is only through the power of The Holy Spirit that sinners can be set free to follow Jesus. God has chosen to use the preaching of His Word – and especially the proclamation of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ – to be the instrument by which He calls sinners to repentance and salvation. We are absolutely convinced that The Answer to EVERY problem – whether it is for individuals or nations – is Jesus Christ. Everyone needs salvation, and Jesus is the ONLY Name by which anyone can be saved (Acts 4:12).

Now God, through the Apostle Paul, assures us that: “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13) But then he identifies a problem. “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!’” (Romans 10:14,15) This is where the 7 men come in.

We are all very excited about this Crusade and look forward to seeing God do great things. Our trip will consist of spending some time on various college campuses in New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. Tuesday evening we will be ministering to the men at the Bethesda Mission in Harrisburg, PA. Wednesday evening we will be ministering to the men of Teen Challenge Baltimore. Our last day of the Crusade will be spent near the Capital. We will be open air preaching, handing out gospel tracts, praying for people, and worshipping everywhere we go, all in Jesus’ name.

People have generously donated financially and with gospel literature for this Crusade. We also have a prayer team that went to all our stops the week of August 22nd - 27th and “prepared the soil”. Now I’m giving you the opportunity to join the “invisible” part of this Crusade by praying as we finish our preparations and go. Please pray for travel mercies and the Lord’s protection and peace over our families at home. Pray for God’s guidance and grace, and that we would be sensitive and obedient to the leading of His Spirit. And pray for God’s will and purposes and glory in all that we say and do, and know that we appreciate every prayer!

 

 

 

 

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?

“Sing praise to the LORD, you saints of His,
And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.” – Psalm 30:4

If I’m painfully honest with you for a minute will you be honest too? A lot of times, I catch myself singing along to a worship song with little thought of the One the song is actually about. Sometimes, it’s just a familiar tune that I love and know by heart and I just can’t help but sing along to the melody, although my mind and heart may be elsewhere. Other times, I’m singing and focusing way too much on myself (something like, “Hey, that sounds pretty good” or “Woah, that’s awful”) rather than the One to whom all praise is due. Or again, to be honest, I may be wondering and worrying more about what others are thinking rather than what God is thinking. All that said, I acknowledge that it’s totally okay to really love music and get a little lost in the beauty of a great song, or to practice and hone one’s abilities and giftings, or to be sure that the sound that others hear isn’t a painful one. But, with humility I say, the balance of our hearts should tip dramatically towards the praise of our amazing God, vs. thinking about other things. 

 

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.

 

How Strong Is Your Foundation?

Do you have questions about the foundational truths and principles of the Christian faith? Would you like to be better prepared to share these truths with those who don’t yet know the Lord? If so, come to the Foundations of Faith class Wednesdays at 7:00 pm starting September 14.

An interactive study of the Bible focused on the fundamentals of Christian doctrine, discipline, and living, the Foundations class is not only for new believers, but also for those who are interested in better understanding nature of God, effective prayer, spiritual life, renewal of mind, fellowship, being a witness, etc.

The open format allows everyone to be comfortable no matter where they are in their walk with Jesus. Do you have friends you have witnessed to who seem to be in the middle of making a decision but are afraid to come to church? Invite them to the class.

Each session includes plenty of room for discussion of the topic being studied. We seek the Lord, and look to the Bible for answers for day-to-day issues. Interaction with each other helps us grow, and also encourages and exhorts those who feel they are alone as they take steps of faith with the Lord.

 

Class Materials

 

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”?

 

Though He Slay Me!

By Jordan Rowley

Within our world, our communities, our church, and our very own lives there are often moments of intense pain, immense sorrow and incredible confusion. The majority of believers at one time or another experience those “why, God?” moments; those times when perhaps it’s difficult to trust Him and seemingly impossible to worship Him. For example, just imagine the moment your doctor tells you that your cancer is no longer in remission; imagine the day when the career that you’ve spent years training for and worked up the ladder towards is suddenly taken away; imagine the freak-accident that destroys everything you’ve ever hoped for; or how it would feel to hear from your child that not only does he or she not believe in Jesus anymore, but they hate everything about God. These are heart-wrenching, real-life scenarios to think about! And I believe it’s important that our hearts be prayerfully prepared. Come what may, you and I ought to have these words of Job settled in our hearts.

“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him…” – Job 13:15a

We know the story of Job. He was a godly man who had just about everything taken from him. He’d been attacked by a number of enemies who killed his servants and stole his livelihood. He’d experienced freak accidents that killed not only what was left of his animals, but took the lives of all of his sons and daughters! And later on even Job’s health was taken too. If we’re honest, we’ll acknowledge that no matter how mature we may be in our faith or how much we may love the Lord, our response would likely be absolutely nothing like Job’s. Upon hearing the news of his servants being slaughtered, his goods being plundered, and his children being killed Job responds in this way:

“Then Job arose, tore his robe and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped.” 

– Job 1:20

Job worshiped!

 

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.

 

Slow Down

by Collin Zweigle

“Slow down, slow down
Grab a coffee here with me
And take a second to breathe
Slow down, slow down
Let's be quiet for a while
And I will try to make you smile
Slow down”

...lyrics of singer Mike Mains, an artist I got to see perform at a music festival in Lebanon, PA in the summer of 2011. One night this summer Megan reminded me of the words of this song and said, “If there was ever a song that was written just for you it’s that one.”

Do we ever slow down? Do we even know how to?

In Mexico people take siestas in the middle of the day. A similar practice is seen in Spain when the afternoon sun is nearly too much to take, so everything shuts down and people just relax. Hassidic Jews actually keep the sabbath, refusing to cook or shop or work at all on Saturdays. But Christians in the U.S., in Northeastern U.S. specifically, a region known for work ethic and innovation, do we know how to do this, to slow down? What is this rest and relaxation we hear people talk about? What is vacation? I haven't had one of those in years! See, in our culture we don't really have the space for this “rest.”

Jesus had a habit of leaving his disciples regularly to go and pray and meditate in the hills surrounding the Sea of Galilee. Sure, this often resulted in the disciples getting themselves into a pickle of one sort or another, but Jesus clearly needed and greatly valued rest. Now, if Jesus went out of His way to find a place where He could have a little peace and quiet, why do we view taking some “me time” as a selfish thing? We wonder why we have high blood pressure and sore backs. If we truly valued rest and time spent in places and environments where we have the space to rest, we would probably be surprised by how easy it is to hear God’s voice. And when we came down off the mountain we’d be actually able to help calm whatever storm brewed up in our absence because we would be rested and ready for action.

Jesus says to us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV) I want that yoke. I want the burden that's as light as a feather; the kind you can barely feel on your shoulders as you carry it because it's been carved, shaped, altered, and designed to be just right for your shoulders, neck and back. I want that burden, the backpack that fits just right. I want His burden, not mine.

But where do I get this burden, His burden? Well if I'm carrying my burden around on my back there’s no way I'm going to be able to pick His up. That's why the psalmist wrote, “Give your burdens to the LORD, and He will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” (Psalm 55:22 NLT) It's only then that my shoulders will be freed up to carry that easy and light burden that God has prepared just for me. 

So what are you carrying on your shoulders today? Cast it off! Take a break! Yes! This might be a reproof for people like me who are really bad at taking a second to think and pray and really sense where our own hearts are at. But how will we truly be able to minister in Jesus’ name unless we allow Him to minister to us? See, the vessel needs to be refilled. I can’t just keep pouring water through the same coffee grounds each day. I need to grind fresh beans each time I brew a cup, otherwise the coffee will be over-extracted and bland. Let’s let the Lord give us fresh coffee beans this summer, eh?

 



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