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Winter is Coming!

By Collin Zweigle

Winter is coming. Half the room freaks out. “I need to get snow tires.” “Honey, did you get around to cleaning out the gutters?” “Oh no! We need to get the snowblower fixed!” A few of us excitedly wait in anticipation of the first real snowfall allowing the local ski resorts to start building a base so we can get out on our skis and snowboards. Yes, I’m one of those people. We may have different opinions on winter but what we share across the board is that we all must prepare for winter. Storms are on their way bringing with them piles of snow, salt on our streets, boots on our feet, and tea in our tummies. Tea is good. 

I’m not writing about winter just because I like it and think it’s funny when people complain about the most wonderful time of the year. Winter, summer, autumn, spring; these are all seasons. They all have their distinct characteristics that make them different. Summer brings us warmth and sunshine, days spent at the beach or a park, vacations and time off. Autumn brings that crisp fall air, apples, pumpkins, and of course the beauty of the changing leaves. Winter brings snow, ice, hats and gloves, and the occasional snowball fight. Spring brings flowers, rain, and that fresh smell of earth overturned in the garden. These are our seasons. They come in a cycle every year, one after the other without fail. We expect them and as northerners we are particularly adept at adjusting to these changes without much difficulty.

Back to winter. Winter is the harshest of our seasons. It’s the one that actually makes driving more dangerous. It makes our commutes longer and forces us to walk like penguins across the parking lot to keep from falling on our bums. (Really, try it! Put your weight on the balls of your feet rather than on your heels when you walk over ice and you won’t fall as much. That’s how penguins do it.) Winter out of all the seasons brings the starkest change in our environment and with it the greatest challenge to adapt and maintain sanity. Christmas helps. What’s funny about winter is that even with all the beauty of the place where we live, it is the one thing powerful enough to make people move away, quite literally. When I visit my family in North Carolina I always bump into people from Rochester, and the one thing they all say is, “Gosh, winters were the worst there.” 

Many people react in this way to the challenges changing seasons in their lives bring. Every season in life, singleness, engagement, marriage, high-school, college, career changes, breakups, commitments, is the result of some sort of change. High-school is the result of finishing junior-high. Marriage is what comes after engagement. Most of us don’t respond well to change and sometimes end up on our bums because we were unprepared. The changing of seasons will either make or break you. It can cause you to get scared and leave, or it can teach you and mold you into being a true man or woman of God.

The book of Ecclesiastes tells us, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:” [3:1 KJV]. There is purpose in change. The snows replenish the soil so we can grow more crops. They also make snowboarding possible. A new job is taken to support a family and to pay the bills. A new degree program is chosen to pave the way for a job and hopefully some sort of humanitarian work through that career. 

If God is working through change in my life, what is my response going to be? Am I going to get upset and move away? Like when people run away from winter? Or am I going to stand firm in Him, knowing that He is working all things together for my good? Am I going to trust Him through the change, buy some snow tires and a shovel, and stick it out right in the place where He’s put me?

I wish you safe travels this winter, my friends. 

 

 

Patience, Prayer and Thanksgiving

By Domenico Danesi

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There is a wonderful simplicity to it. People get together with family and friends, enjoy a nice meal together, watch a football game or two, talk, and just relax. It saddens me that Thanksgiving is now essentially “skipped over”. Could it be that we are not thankful anymore? Have we as Christians fallen prey to the commercialism and craziness of the Holiday season? The Bible warns us that in the last days men would be unthankful (2 Timothy 3:2). People will stand in long lines even before Thanksgiving Day is over to get a deal on what is dubbed “Black Friday”.  What kind of message does this give to our children? Philippians 4:6 states: “Be anxious for nothing (not even the best deals) but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Patience, prayer, and thanksgiving must be modeled. “Follow me” is a simple command, yet it is also deeply profound. Running over people at Best Buy or Target really does not set the best example of patience and thanksgiving. Our children are watching and listening to our every move. Are these the thanksgiving memories you want them to have?

What practical steps can we take as parents to ensure that our children learn patience and thanksgiving during the month of November? Here are a few suggestions: 1.) Have your family devotions center around thanks for November. Every year the Children’s Church curriculum in November is about being thankful.  2.) Enjoy Thanksgiving Day. Do not even mention Christmas on Thanksgiving, but let your children reflect on how much you all have to be thankful for. 2.) Have a set amount of money set aside for Christmas gifts. Don’t let your children see you consistently swiping credit cards to buy for others during November or December. 3.) Spread out your shopping. Start in early November and do not wait until the last minute to run around like a chicken with your head cut off.  4.) Remember that Jesus is truly the “reason for every season”, and take a breath.

The impatience and unthankful attitudes of the holidays is Anti-Christ. As parents we set the tone in our homes. Go against the “cultural grain” and make the month of November and specifically Thanksgiving Day a time of patience, prayer, and thanks in your home. Come up with a family tradition that your children will look forward to each year. Slow down on Thursday, November 26th, say a prayer with your family to begin the day, and simply be thankful as you enjoy the goodness of our God!

 

 

Time to Transition

By Domenico Danesi

Study to shew yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

It’s August and we are about to enter into the final turn of summer. Come September we will be attending school programs, getting children on the bus, and packing lunches 5 days a week. Whether you homeschool or send your child to a public or private school, it can be difficult to “get back into the swing of things”. Below is a list of ideas and suggestions to help ease the transition into another school year.

• Set a devotional time for the family. If this is new, try 5-10 minutes daily or every other day for starters. Include a prayer, scripture, and a song. Take prayer requests, ask your children questions about the topic of the day or week.

• Do not squeeze out the things of God. Sunday morning service needs to be a staple for every Christian home. Mid-week service should also be a priority if at all possible.

• Start getting your children to bed earlier. Try 1 to 2 weeks before the school year begins. This will get them into a rhythm before school starts.

• Start preparing your children mentally and emotionally for the new school year. Give them 3-week, 2-week, and 1-week notices prior to the first week of school. The younger the child, the more verbal transition help and notices are needed.

• Get school supplies and clothes at the beginning of August. Save yourself stress from scrambling around on August 30th trying to find everything on the school supply list and the right pair of jeans.

• Buy items in bulk. Go to Sam’s or BJ’s and buy a large quantity of snacks for lunches. Weekly trips require more time and more money. You can stock up for months at these places.

• Use calendars, chore charts, and schedules. Structure is needed in every home if it is to run smoothly.

• Do not over- commit and under- perform. Limit your child’s activities to 1-extracurricular activity per season. Do not go from a 6 or 7-hour school day to a 45-minute piano lesson then on to a 90-minute soccer practice. 

Transitioning back into the school year is challenging but necessary. Seek the Lord as you make this transition and He will help you in your daily endeavors. Cast all your cares upon Him for He cares for you (I Peter 5:7). We serve an awesome God, and though our lives are always changing, He never does!

 

 

 

Dreamers

By Collin Zweigle

This year’s Accelerate Retreat on beautiful Canandaigua Lake was awesome! We had 35 students and only 7 of them were boys. Yes, 7 to 28 was our ratio, but it was awesome. The weather was perfect the entire weekend, and worship was wonderful, led by our good friend Andy and his friends. The dance party DJ Steeze (our friend Ian) led was fantastic. Dude and Girl times were awesome on Saturday night. Tubing was scary and fun and almost everybody got thrown off the tube into the water but we were wearing life jackets so it was ok!

Last year was my first time leading a Youth Retreat. I had been on them before. I had led worship on them and been a youth leader on them and attended them as a student myself many times, but leading one and being responsible for the whole thing was rather intimidating. Each year, the Accelerate Retreat really is my big summer project. We begin planning it a whole year ahead, picking the dates and such and then we do the rest of the planning and scheduling and shopping and booking throughout the year. I remember last year getting to LeTourneau and really not knowing where everything was (though I had been there a couple times before). It was a whole new thing. I wasn’t sure how the details of the weekend would come together. It’s a lot for a 21 year old guy to be in charge of. In contrast, this year was like going home for the holidays. When we got to LeTourneau I breathed. It wasn’t somewhere new. It was somewhere we had memories at as a group. It was a place we all loved and wanted to show to new friends. It was our home for a few days.

As a youth ministry team we are continually marked by how awesome our students are.This year I have said and continue to say that this is the most well behaved youth group I have ever worked with. Parents, you deserve a Klondike Bar! Your kids have such a wonderful respect for their leaders and for me and their love for each other and for Jesus is seen every time we spend time together. Being youth leaders gives us a special perspective into their lives. I want you to know that what we see is pure gold. Sure, every now and again we have to make sure a student doesn’t drink a second or third caffeinated beverage before bed time, but in their hearts your kids are incredible people growing into young God-fearing, people-loving men and women who it is an absolute privilege to get to know and work with.

This year our theme was “Dreamers.” We covered the story of Joseph and talked about how he followed his God-given dreams, which ultimately led to him being the ruler of the known world and enabled him to save his entire family from death by starvation. Our students were encouraged to identify their personal dreams and to give those things to God. Our prayer and hope is that they would never let go of these things. God has put desires in every one of our hearts. These things beat inside us. They drive us to give up huge chunks of our lives in order to pursue a career or education or ministry opportunity. This is not just a message for students in youth group. This is a message for all God-fearing people. This is a message to the church! Wake up, oh sleepers! Rise up, you dreamers! Go forth in boldness. Your God is in you! Your God is with you! Follow Him to the ends of the earth. You young at heart, you whose passion is not dead, rise up and follow the dream that God has set before you! He is your guide. He is your provider. Rest in Him. He will never fail you.

 

Our Gracious God

By Lynn Metier

“And it will be that when he cries to Me, I will hear, for I am gracious.” (Exodus 22:27c)  

Since Satan’s goal is to keep people from God, he deliberately fosters misconceptions about Him, as he did when he deceived Eve into thinking that God was holding out on her (Genesis 3:1-6). Therefore, it is critically important for anyone and everyone who desires a right relationship with God to understand what He is really like. So let’s continue to look at His characteristics.

 “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” (Genesis 6:8) This is the first Biblical verse where the Hebrew word “chen” is found, which is translated as “grace” or “favor”. It comes from a root word that means “to bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior; (be) merciful, have (show) mercy (on, upon), have pity upon”. In other words, Yahweh looked at Noah favorably, not willing to give him the just retribution due for his flaws, faults, and failures. (“For the wages of sin is death” – Romans 6:23.) And when Noah looked to GOD, he saw in His eyes the willingness to bless instead of destroy; he believed in God’s mercy. And you know the story. Noah and his family were the only eight people saved from the worldwide flood judgment (Genesis 6-8).  

Time and again David declared that God is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger” (Psalm 86:15, 103:8, 145:8). He had learned through his own experiences that God was not hot tempered and vengeful; He did not give him the deadly punishment he deserved for his sins, but He extended mercy. That isn’t to say that David didn’t have to suffer the consequences of his wrong choices and actions (2 Samuel 12:9-14); but God was willing to forgive his sins and bestow His favor upon him in spite of his failures. God was gracious. Notice that God, even knowing how badly David would ‘blow it’ in the future with regards to Bathsheba and her husband, still revealed His plan to bestow favor upon David (2 Samuel 7:8,9,12-22), with no strings attached. God’s blessings were not contingent upon David’s goodness or worthiness, so the fulfillment of those promises were not thwarted by David’s sins. (Their completion, however, will not be seen until Jesus sits upon David’s throne in Jerusalem during His Millennial reign – Luke 1:31-33; Revelation 20:6.)

 

What I Wish I'd Known Before I Got Divorced

By Georgia Shaffer

Five friends and I were having breakfast one morning when our conversation turned to our friend Cindy.* She was convinced divorce was the answer to her problems. "I wish Cindy would listen to us," I said. "She made it clear she doesn't want to hear anything from us divorcées," said Betsy. "She's made up her mind, and she's not changing it."

That morning, in utter frustration, my friends and I compiled a list: what we wish we'd known before we got divorced—the things we wanted Cindy to know before she made her final decision. Each of us had experienced the upheaval of divorce and watched 12 of our close friends' second marriages end.

We all knew Cindy wasn't casually deciding to end her marriage—few people do. Divorce is one of the most agonizing choices a couple makes. We understood the anger, panic, abandonment, and feelings of being trapped that lead many people to divorce. But we'd also experienced the "other side" of being single again. We'd seen the lives of our children changed forever. Years later, we continue to live with the ongoing pain and complications of a destroyed marriage.

As a licensed psychologist, I've heard many people consider the possibility of ending their marriage. They look at divorce as a solution to their marital woes, a viable answer to their pain and frustration. Ultimately, however, it creates only different problems. In a recent study by the Institute for American Values chaired by sociologist Linda Waite of the University of Chicago, researchers asked, "Does divorce make people happy?" They found that those who ended their troubled marriage in divorce weren't any happier than those who remained married. In fact, two-thirds of those who stayed married reported happy marriages five years later.

Here's the list we compiled for Cindy.

1. Life Will Change More than You Realize

"I thought I'd enjoy being alone," says Lori, who has never remarried. "But I'm lonely. Whenever my friends complain about how needy their husbands or children are, I say, 'Try living without that.'"

 

A Light to My Path

by Collin Zweigle

Sometimes things are just plain dark. It gets hard to see. These storms roll in and we have flash floods. The rain pours. It comes down so hard. It runs in your eyes and you can’t see anymore. It pelts your face. Your clothes get soaked through. Vehicles zoom by splashing you. Soaking, dripping, cold; this is the life of the poor cyclist caught in one of our summer rain showers that come on way too quickly and often without warning. The other day, I rode to my friend’s house with him and was about to leave. I had checked my weather app and everything, but as I walked out the door it started down pouring. Not fun. Thankfully he had a bike rack on his car and drove me home. Thanks, Matt.

Over the past year I have become somewhat obsessed with the metaphors seen in different modes of transportation. In the city I see all kinds. People running, walking, skateboarding, taking the bus, driving, and cycling. Cycling is an ever-growing alternate means of transport. Rochester has bike lanes on most of its main roads because people ride their bikes everywhere. It’s a great, healthy, fun, environmental and budget friendly way to get around. When you ride a bike you can go anywhere you want. You can swerve around traffic and even hop up onto the sidewalk if you have to. You don’t get slowed down by construction and traffic jams, you simply go around them.

Now, in the day time riding a bike makes perfect sense. It’s quick. It’s fun. It’s good for your body. But what do you do at night time? What if you have to stay late at work and the sun is going down? Well, they’ve made these great things for situations like that called bike lights! I recently purchased some for my bike and they have already come in handy. Some riders buy a little white light for the front and a blinky red one for the back of their bikes, but not me. I bought a headlight. A bright LED that illuminates the road in front of me. The metaphor hit me last night as I was talking with the 7th-9th grade boys in small group. “A light to my path.” [Psalm 119:105b]. God’s ideas, God’s truth, the things God is saying to me, the way He wants me to look at things; these things are His Light to my path. His word, literally what He is saying, and has said, and what we know that He’s said and what He says to us through His people, through dreams and visions, through the Scriptures, through His still, small voice in our hearts; this is our Light. “The Lord is my Light and my Salvation.” [Psalm 27:1]. Literally without that headlight on my bike I wouldn’t see the pieces of glass on the road ahead of me. I wouldn’t notice the pothole left over from the furious winter we had this year. I need that light!

The personal application is simple. If we will allow God to light up the things in front of us, if we will allow Him to change the way we look at things, if we will take a minute and let Him light our path, we’ll see exactly where we need to go. He’ll show us clearly. This is very practical and I’m seeing it more and more as I follow Him, but when I wait a little while to respond to a text message from someone who seems upset or frustrated with me, normally they figure out that I didn’t do anything to hurt them. When I take a deep breath and look at the situation in front of me, that gives me time to respond to it and make a thoughtful decision on what to do rather than just reacting and doing the first thing that pops into my mind. I work with kids. I see a lot of that, but I see it a lot more in adults than most of us would like to admit.

Let’s remember these truths. “The Lord is my Light and my Salvation.” “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Just like my bicycle headlight. He is our salvation. He will keep us from popping our tires or flying over our handlebars on the bike ride of life, but only if we are willing to take Him with us. So what kind of headlight are you using? The headlight of your own intuition, or of what other people are telling you you should do, or the headlight of God-breathed truth that is with you wherever you go? Literally, it’s on an app on your phone! He’s all around. Are you listening?

 

 

Overflowing Goodness

“Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name.” (Malachi 3:16)

We continue to look at the nature of God in His Word because this is part of what it means to “meditate on His name”. Remember that the name of God, Yahweh, reveals and expresses His character, the essence of His being, which is: “compassionate and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…” (Exodus 34:6-7). We have already given some thought to the LORD’s compassionate and gracious nature, and have touched lightly upon His mercy and longsuffering. Now let’s consider His overflowing “goodness”.   

First of all, it’s important to understand that God does good because He IS good. We tend to reverse this, especially when it comes to ourselves, and think that doing good is what makes one good, and, thus, acceptable to God. NO! Goodness is an inherent quality which is natural only to God. Jesus said: “… ‘No one is good except God alone.’ ” (Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19) Thus, the idea that man is basically good is also false! “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells” (Romans 7:18). But Jehovah is intrinsically and infinitely good. “For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” (Psalm 100:5) He always has been good, and He always will be (Malachi 3:6). “The goodness of God endures continually.” (Psalm 52:1b) 

But just what is it about the LORD that is good? His goodness is certainly evident in His creation. God could have made the world without beautiful colors, melodious sounds, lovely fragrances, delicious flavors, etc., but He chose to “(give) us richly all things to enjoy”  (1 Timothy 6:17), and declared His creation, “very good.” (Genesis 1:31) Old Testament prophets testified that God’s providential “hand” of protection and provision is good, as is His “Spirit” of instruction (Ezra 7:9; Nehemiah 2:8, 9:20). “Good and upright is the LORD; therefore He teaches sinners in the way.” (Psalm 25:8) Solomon prayed that when the people sinned and repented, God would hear and forgive them, so that He “may teach them the good way in which they should walk” (1 Kings 8:35-36); the “good way” being God’s way of righteousness and holiness. Since God’s plan is for us to reflect His good image and character (Romans 8:29), that is what He is teaching us, and what Jesus modeled for us (Acts 10:38). “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8) Furthermore, because of His infinite goodness, the LORD is selective in what He remembers and what He does not. “Remember Your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of Your goodness, O LORD!” (Psalm 25:6,7) 

 

The Gap Between Gospel and Cultural Christianity

By Pastor Ben Hiwale

I am certain you have heard in the context of your religious upbringing the word “sin”. You don’t hear this word outside of a religious context. People normally don’t say, “You just sinned against your mother.” This word carries with it heaviness. It’s like looking in the mirror and admitting that there is the problem, in ME. So what we have done in our culture is remove the word “sin” and substituted a word that is whole lot easier to bear, and that word is “mistake”. This substitution is terrible. It doesn’t even come close to the gravity the word sin holds. Sin is so condemning and makes you an outcast. How many times you have seen people go on TV and confess they have made a mistake, even though they have destroyed their family, wrecked people’s lives, left companies in financial turmoil? You are listening to this and saying, “No, this isn’t a ‘mistake!’ A mistake is what you make when you checked the wrong answer on a multiple choice test, but this is far bigger than that. A mistake is listening to your GPS and making the wrong turn.” We use the word mistake and dumb it all down.  

Evangelical Christians of almost all sorts are a narrative-driven people. Those who emphasize the personal nature of knowing Christ often define following Christ in terms of our past, what we’re leaving behind. But even without a spoken testimony, one can often read what an evangelical is walking away from based on what he’s reacting, or over-reacting, to. For example, whenever I hear a Christian say that we shouldn’t emphasize the imperatives of Scripture (the commands of God), but rather the indicatives (who we are in Christ), I can surmise that this is someone who grew up in a legalistic or rigid environment. By contrast, when I hear an evangelical Christian wanting to build hedges of rules around the possibility of sin, I can usually guess that this person was converted out of a morally chaotic background. The Christian who was converted out of a dead, lifeless church often dismisses liturgy as “formalism” and contrasts “religion” with “relationship.” At the same time, one who was converted despite an emotionally exuberant but theologically empty church will often seek out the ancient roots and structure of a more liturgically ordered church.

What’s true at the personal level is also true in the church at large. We tend to go back and forth between extremes—always seeking to avoid the last bad thing. The religious liberals of the last generation were, in many ways, reacting from some sectors of the “Jesus People” era to the empty consumerism and racism and militarism of the post-World War II religious establishments. The old religious conservatives were in many ways a reaction to the awful consequences of a real or perceived pietistic withdrawal of some in the church as the country veered into Sexual Revolution and an abortion culture. As we move into a new era, the church in America will seek to correct the course from some aspects of the past. We should simply make sure that we correct in the right way. Some will see any reframing of Christian public witness as a “pullback from politics” or a withdrawal back into the enclaves. But this is not the case, for several reasons. First of all, it will be impossible. It is one thing for Christianity to correct errors of the past, but it is quite another to silence or constrict the liberty of future generations.

Total disengagement is itself a privilege of a cultural Christendom that is fast passing away. A church can avoid taking controversial stances on what it means to be human or what it means to be married only so long as the outside culture at least pretends to share the same basic ideals. A church can ignore the culture only until that culture reshapes the church in a way that obscures the gospel itself. And a church can ignore the state only as long as the state respects the territorial boundaries of Mr. Jefferson’s “wall of separation.” A state that sees some aspects of Christian witness as bigoted and dangerous will not long stay on the other side of that wall.

The primary reason I think evangelicalism will not go wobbly on public engagement is the gospel.

 

Guitars for Glory - Belize 2015

By Collin Zweigle

This summer I had the privilege of going to Belize on a mission trip with Guitars for Glory. The plan was to show up, run a worship camp and teach a whole bunch of kids how to play guitar. At the end of the trip we were going to give all of the instruments we brought with us away to those whom we felt led to give them to. 

The first night, the church we worked with was having their Saturday night service and we were waiting for our bus to take us back to the school where we were staying each night. We were standing outside listening to the music. As they played our entire team felt drawn into the church building. It was like the Spirit of God was saying, "Come in. Come in!" They began to play Agnus Dei and that did it! Our whole team walked right into the back of the church, hands went up, tears flowed and God ministered to us as we sang. God was there washing over us through His people in Belize. It was so refreshing. As a music-focused ministry, we are normally the ones playing for worship. We aren’t normally on the receiving end, so being there, experiencing that before we had even plugged a guitar in was exactly what we needed. We felt the passion these people worshipped with and we saw that Belize was exactly where we were meant to be that week.

The rest of the week was incredible. We spent our afternoons training worship leaders. We taught guitar lessons as well as cajón, keyboard, and vocals. These times quickly became our favorite part of the trip. I remember thinking, "I could do this every day for the rest of my life." That thought was echoed by many of our team members. Ever since we started Guitars for Glory it's been our vision to travel and train worship leaders around the world. Our tagline is, “Equipping the world for worship.” For the most part we’ve been doing that by sending guitars to the four corners of the globe, but there is so much more work to be done. The time we spent in Belize showed us the future of what God has for us. We are just seeing the beginning of this, the tip of the iceberg.

 

Faithful

By Lynn Metier

“Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments; and He repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them.” (Deuteronomy 7:9-10)

The Hebrew word for “faithful” in this passage is a root word that can also mean, “to build up or support; to foster as a parent or nurse…to be permanent…to be true or certain”. Thus, this adjective describes our God as being “of long continuance, stedfast, sure,” trustworthy, a nurturing Father (“The New Strong’s Concordance”, #539). In a world of continual flux and uncertainty, increasing turmoil and tragedy, Christians need to be anchored in the reality of our faithful God.  

Being under the control of the devil (1 John 5:19), the systems of this world are anything but supportive, nurturing, long lasting, or worthy of trust! Even dedicated Christians can prove unfaithful. Why? Because, in spite of our best intentions and sincerest commitments, we really have little control over our own lives and circumstances; and despite our deepest passions and firmest resolve, we often fall short due to lack of knowledge or resources. Not so with God! Faithfulness is part of His very nature because He cannot fail (Job 42:2)! Yahweh has all wisdom and knowledge, all power and endless resources since He is the Creator of everything, and He is sovereign over all things (Psalm 104:1-30). This makes His promises sure and true because He does not change (Malachi 3:6), and He is completely capable of following through on His word.  Thus, we can trust Him to always be who He says He is and to always do what He promises to do. Since God is love, and there is absolutely nothing that can separate His children from His love (Romans 8:38-39), we can be certain that ALL things really do “work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28). (But remember, God is the one who defines “good”, based upon His infinite knowledge and eternal perspective, not according to our limited understanding and fleshly comforts.) And God is just as committed to punishing the wicked and rebellious as He is to saving and rewarding the righteous who trust in Him (Romans 2:5-8).

The Bible gives us several scenarios in the application of our God’s faithfulness, not the least of which deals with our relationship with Him in 1 Corinthians 1:9: “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” God the Father is unwavering and wholly committed to friendship with believers because of and through Jesus (Romans 5:10, Hebrews 2:10,11).

 

Choose Life

By Pastor Ray Viola

The fall season and a new school year are upon us. No matter how parents choose to educate their children, there are things that are necessary to be done to get ready. For one thing, school materials, books or electronic data needed for subjects being taken by their children need to be purchased, not to mention clothing and footwear to accommodate their summer “growth spurt”. Then, there is the inevitable need to adjust from our summer mentality to school year mentality. Life is not one long summer of sleeping in, ease and playing. When it comes to preparing for a new school year, if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. Such is true in the Christian life.

No matter how you choose to educate your children, you cannot forever shelter them from the reality of this fallen world system: its worldview, its philosophy of life, its "coexisting" religious mentality. Until The Lord Jesus returns, the people of God need to be in a constant state of preparedness in order to offset the barrage of the world and the things of the world. How do we respond to the battle that rages against our Christian worldview not only in the world, but in our secular school system? I think we find a key in Moses’ last sermon to the nation of Israel recorded in Deuteronomy 30:15-20: “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; In that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it. But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for He is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”  

As told to Israel (Deuteronomy 6:5), the great commandment according to Jesus is that we are to love The Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). Through faith in Jesus Christ, we are called into this sweet, loving fellowship with The Father. But in our desire to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Him, the Bible tells us that there are going to be many obstacles, distractions and attractions that will vie for our affections and attention. Peter calls them fleshly lusts that war against our souls (1 Peter 2:11). 

How can we stay on course and not become a Christian POW in the enemy’s camp?

  1. Stay in close communion with The Lord daily through prayer and reading of Scripture.
  2. Stay in regular fellowship with other saints who will exhort you daily and hold you accountable.
  3. Keep short accounts with The Lord. Confess your sins to Him; don’t explain them away or make excuses for them
  4. Walk in forgiveness. Do not let any root of bitterness defile your spirit and others.
  5. Watch your thought life. Bring into captivity every thought to obedience to Christ.
  6. Beware of the mentality of the slothful servants who lived carelessly because they said, “The Lord delayeth His coming.”
  7. Always keep in your mind the image of a crucified Christ.

May our precious Lord Jesus lead you, guide you, strengthen you and anoint you to be a bright light for Him in this dark and fallen world.

 

 

Transitioning

By Collin Zweigle

Summer started out with a bang for Accelerate! This May we went on our annual go-karting adventure. Spirits were high, summer tans were beginning, and good times were had by all. We ended the night with a bonfire and movie outside on a big screen at the Hiwales’ home. That day was one of our most memorable so far. It is an incredible blessing to get to spend time with the young people who call this congregation their church home.

Our go-karting event marked the beginning of summer for us as a group. Sure, many of the students were still in school but the weather had finally broken and outdoor activities (besides skiing, snowboarding, and sledding) were beginning to pick back up again. This season of spring is the transition from cold and snowy to warm and sunny. Here at Koinonia, our church home, we have been going through a transition as well. With the departure of our Worship Ministry Director things have begun to take on a different feel. It’s different when Ilya or I lead than when Pat used to lead. Things sound a little different. Song choices are a little different. We’re learning. This transition has put more of a demand on many of the members of our worship ministry, including the youth band, which has begun playing in the Sanctuary on the fourth Wednesday of each month.

Times of transition are some of the most important times in our lives. Each of us goes through them. Sometimes we handle them more gracefully than others. I am currently transitioning out of being in school and into summer. I have a little more time on my hands and can relax a little bit. Part of summer is having Megan home. When we’re separated because of school we learn to support and love each other in certain ways specific to that situation, like letters and phone calls. Now that she’s home it looks different. There are more date nights and jam sessions. This is another kind of transition. I like to call it a reentry period.

For you transitioning might be getting married or bringing home a new addition to your family. You might be starting a new job, or getting used to retirement. Whatever transition you are in, remember these words; “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 NIV. Remember who your Leader is. He is your Guide. He will ultimately lead you home. “God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:8 ESV. 

 



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