By Lynn Metier
Such was the question Pilate asked of Jesus (John 18:38), apparently in only a rhetorical way since he didn’t await an answer. It is IMPERATIVE, however, that Christians seek the answer, because it is only in knowing the truth that we can recognize, refute, and reject the deception, misinformation, falsehoods, and outright lies so prevalent in the world today. We shouldn’t be surprised at this state of affairs since the Bible tells us that “the whole world lies under the sway of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), whom Jesus identified as being completely without truth and the father of lying (John 8:44). Indeed, deception is one of the devil’s most powerful and effective weapons, which he has used since the Garden of Eden to separate mankind from God (Genesis 3:1-13), who is the “God of truth” (Psalm 31:5). Therefore, the first and central piece of spiritual armor Christians are exhorted to put on in order to stand against evil is truth (Ephesians 6:11-14), which the Psalmist declared, “shall be your shield and buckler.” (Psalm 91:4c)
This truth, however, is more than a theological concept or an abstract idea.
By Pastor Ray Viola
I am asked from time to time what my vision is for Koinonia Fellowship. I have stated this for 30 years now, and will state it again. My vision for Koinonia Fellowship is found at the end of all 4 gospels, and the beginning of the Book of Acts. I believe with all of my heart that The Only One with a vision for the church is The One to Whom it belongs, The Lord Jesus Christ. He simply is looking for men who have no other agenda than His. We are not called into ministry to build our kingdoms; we exist to glorify Christ and carry out His truly great commission. He will build His church. Thus, my vision for Koinonia Fellowship, past, present and future is to preach the gospel to every creature and make disciples.
It is the providence of God that has determined the location where He has called us to serve. In the history of Koinonia, God has planted us in two towns. Irondequoit for 13 years, and East Rochester for the past 17, going on 18 years. Thus, for 30 years, we have been teaching through the Bible, book by book, chapter by chapter, verse by verse in these two areas. The outcome of the ministry of The Word has been wonderful. God's Spirit has added to His church from 13 people to today. God has sent 4 men out to plant other local churches. He had touched people's hearts to serve in missions - local missions like nursing homes, Open Door Mission, Prison Ministry, and The Father’s Heart. He has touched other saints to serve in New York City, Texas, Italy, and India. Others have gone out on short term missions to Africa and other countries. None of these were in my heart when this church began. But that is always the overflow of God-centered, Spirit-filled, Christ-exalting, Gospel-centered exposition of Scripture. God-fed sheep will be given a God-created heart for ministry. Reaching the lost with the gospel and making disciples is what Jesus told us to do.
Thus, Christ's vision for His church will continue to be THE vision for Koinonia Fellowship in 2015. There is nothing new under the sun. However, being incurably human, there is always a learning curve in ministry. Looking back and looking ahead requires contemplation and consideration. God's grace has allowed us to grow from our conception to the present day. 2015 launches us into the 31st year of existence as a local congregation. We have been through many changes over the years. There has been many tears, and much rejoicing. Ministry is hardly easy, usually messy, but never in vain. The only perfect part of the church is in heaven right now. Over the years, we have by God's grace done many things well. But we can certainly do many things better. Seeking to do what we do better is part of what lies ahead for Koinonia Fellowship. We never want to assume that because God has blessed us, that means that everything we do is without flaw. The church at Ephesus was doing a lot of things right, but they lost their passion for Jesus. That is never right! Jesus will not dwell in a church where a love for Him is not supreme. Thus, I am always asking myself, how can we better reach the lost with the gospel with the love of Jesus? How can we better equip the saints for the work of the ministry with the love of Jesus? How can we better care for the flock and their ever increasing needs with the love of Jesus? Those are daunting and challenging questions, and ones that cannot be answered easily. Questions that require wisdom from God, and burning hearts with a love for Jesus and a desire to see that happen.
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.
By Lynn Metier
Part of my car’s license plate is ‘CAC’. While to some in this materialistic world this may suggest ‘Cash and Carry’, to me it is a reminder that I have been ‘Called and Chosen’ by Almighty God.
Since God is omniscient and therefore knows all those who will believe in Him for salvation (John 10:14,27), He calls them “according to His purpose”, which is “to be conformed to the image of His Son” and “glorified” (Rom 8:28-30). The Hebrew and Greek words used by the Holy Spirit for “glory” (and its various forms) mean “heavy” or “weighty” (in other words, of real substance), and “very apparent”. How interesting that God, who is Spirit (John 4:24) and “the God of glory” (Acts 7:2, Psalm 29:3), is of more substance and reality than physical humanity, whose life is described as a “breath” (Job 7:7) and a “vapor” (James 4:14)! God’s purpose for calling people to Himself, then, is to give them an eternal ‘weightiness’ or reality that mirrors Jesus Christ, and this is true for all believers, no matter what His specific calling or purpose for the individual’s life might be. However, this isn’t a one-time deal that occurs when we get to heaven, but quite the contrary. Once a person has a Spiritual birth (John 3:5-7), God’s Spirit works within him or her a process of transformation. “But we all…beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor 3:18) The word glory also involves the ideas of splendor, honor, beauty, and success, all of which belong to the saints of God both now and eternally through and in Christ. It’s His glory in us. Paul wrote that those who have been chosen by God “from the beginning for salvation” are called through the gospel proclaimed by the Apostles for the purpose of obtaining “the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thess 2:13,14)
Paul again proclaimed this in Romans 9:23-24, stating that God has “prepared beforehand for glory” those believers (“vessels of mercy”) whom He has summoned from both Jews and non-Jews. “I will call them, ‘My people’ who were not My people, and her ‘Beloved’ who was not beloved.” (Rom 9:24,25). The Lord’s beckoning unto redemption is personal to individuals (Rev 3:20), as well as to His nation of Israel (Isaiah 43:1). Those who respond to the Lord’s invitation to come to Him to receive the gifts of salvation and eternal life (Rom 6:23) will become His dearly loved possession, “chosen by God and precious” (1 Peter 2:4). This is in stark contrast to those who refuse God’s call and are identified by Paul as “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (Rom 9:22). Understand, saints, that God does not preordain these people for destruction, and He is not the one preparing them for eternal damnation. Their consistent failure to respond to His grace is what determines their eternal outcome. Jesus said that “many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matt 22:14) The reason they’re not chosen is because they refused to hear His call, which is two-fold: to deliver from and to bring to. 1 Peter 2:9 clearly demonstrates this, proclaiming that God calls people, “out of darkness into His marvelous light”. While this context relates to God’s invitation from damnation unto salvation, He also continually beckons saints to forsake ignorance and worldly ways to “walk in the light as He is in the light” (1 John 1:7). Once a person has responded to God’s call to salvation, then there must be a continual choosing to follow God’s calling upon that individual’s life. We are urged by the Scriptures and prompted by the Spirit to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which (we) have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph 4:1-3)
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.
By Domenico Danesi
Have you ever thought about the adolescent years of Jesus? We often think of Jesus the man, but he too was a boy. You are probably familiar with this passage of scripture where Jesus was missing and Mary and Joseph were searching for him: and it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. (Luke 2:42-46). The doctors at the temple were amazed at the wisdom of Jesus; and all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers (Luke 2:47). Jesus the boy was growing like all children do. He was growing physically, mentally, and emotionally. He knew his mission and his purpose was clear; to be about his Father’s business (Luke 2:49).
Although Jesus had not “officially” begun his earthly ministry yet as a man, he was involved in the work as a child. The Bible tells us that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature; and Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52). We must realize that a child who just sits in a pew will likely be an adult who just sits in a pew. Give children opportunities to serve in and outside of the body of Christ. Mobilize your children. This is one way they will grow like Jesus “in wisdom and stature”.
Have we “missed the boat” when it comes to training up our children (Proverbs 22:6)? Have we let American culture influence our thinking? Are we to believe that our children can be somewhat irresponsible and unaccountable and use the excuse, “they are just kids”? The tragedy of this mentality is that our children will indeed grow, but it will only be in physical stature, nothing else. We need to cultivate them spiritually. Model our faith, speak our faith, impress upon them at an early age that you as a parent are about your Heavenly Father’s business. Above all encourage them as children to follow Jesus in word and deed.
Koinonia Fellowship has so many opportunities to serve inside and outside of the church walls. Perhaps you could sign up for one of these outreaches as a family. You are the hands and feet of Jesus. Nothing replaces example. If your children see mom and dad serving, going out into the world, they are more likely to have a desire to do the same. I have had the privilege of taking my children to the Open Door Mission and The Father’s Heart. Nothing can replace this real-life experience. Once at the Open door mission my wife Leslee, my son Lorenzo (8), and my daughter Bria (10) made hygiene kits as the other Saints served the meal and the message; they loved it! Another opportunity came through the Father’s Heart. My daughters Bria (10) and Selah (6) served meals and handed out tracts to people on Hudson Avenue as I ministered the word of God. My girls absolutely loved it as did I! “Ministry is caught not taught”. A classroom lecture or parental talk will not cut it. Children must be involved in the work. I challenge you this Christmas season; take your children, go and preach the gospel in word and deed.
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”.
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.
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...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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.