Monday, December 15, 2014

Moving Ahead into 2015

At 6:30 tonight our Crossroads Board of Directors meets. The board meets first to pray and discuss my "contract," which, this time, will be for 6 months with an evaluation in March. Then, together, we'll spend time in the Word of God and prayer before going on to other business, including the approval of the 2015 proposed budget and a revision to the "partnership agreement" that all Crossroads Community Church participants are invited to sign each year. Other items of business include a treasurer's report, updates on the youth and children's programs and opportunities that the Lord is laying before us for the new year.

As we move into 2015, I am praying we, as individuals, will decisions about spending time together in such a way that we connect more deeply and honestly -- not only with God, but also with one another -- that we will show the world what it means to Love God and Love our Neighbor as Ourselves.

There are many ways we can do that.

One option is that we would choose to read the book The Dangerous Kind (click here to download the first chapter) for several weeks together. We could choose to focus on chapters of this book during the first weeks of the new year -- here's a possible outline:
  • Jan. 04 - chapter 1 - "Living Dangerously in a Perilous Time"
  • Jan. 11 - chapter 2 - "The Naturally Supernatural Life"
  • Jan. 18 - chapter 3 - "A Dangerous Kindness"
  • Jan. 25 - chapter 4 - "The Spirit and the Mind"
  • Feb. 01 - chapter 5 - "Under the Word"
  • Feb. 08 - chapter 6 - "Hiddenness"
  • Feb. 15 - chapter 7 - "Love: God's Gold Standard"
  • Feb 22 - chapter 8 - "Repent--Kingdom Life Starts Here"
  • Mar. 01 - chapter 9 - "Reckless"
  • Mar. 08 - chapter 10 - "This is the Key to Your Life"
There's no need to do it this way. This is just a possibility. The point is that, if we read and worship and share together, we will growing spiritually together -- not just as isolated individuals who happen to worship together for about an hour once a week. We could have discussions too--and perhaps some outreach "events" or "efforts" that tie into what we're learning.

OK... it's 6:30 and any minute I'll be getting a call to go up to the church building. I need to wrap this up. More later.

www.equalsharing.com

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

God's Sort

A swirl of ideas someone else put together... not me... I don't have a cat.
Good evening! How was your day? I'm praising God right now that He sorts through messes of ideas and possibilities makes things a whole lot clearer! 

After I got off the school bus this morning, my mind and my plans were like the picture posted on this page... but God has worked all out for His Glory and our good! Thank you Jesus!

As we move ahead into 2015, there is a swirl of good options that the Lord lays before us. As a local church body, we are going to have some choices to make. Will we act more as individuals or will we follow God's call to work and play and learn and serve together? And, if we do act as a team, what will we do? Will we sponsor an Elijah H
ouse prayer ministry training course? A conference led by Karl Kruse? Alpha? Love INC? More partnership with Freedom Church?

As we pray, the Lord will sort it all out. He always does when we trust in him. He did that yesterday and today. And he will do the same in the days to come.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will straighten your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
www.equalsharing.com

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Real Joy

I'm writing this as a preparation for preaching at Crossroads this morning. Pray that God will inspire joy among us as we share. [ADDED 4 DAYS LATER: You can listen to a recording of the message, with an introduction, scripture reading and mutual sharing toward the end at this link. Links to other messages and hours of worship at Crossroad are here.]
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This morning we begin a little series of worship gatherings leading up to Christmas--a series that will include messages, and hopefully some conversation, a little series that I'm calling "REAL Joy": Real Joy in contrast to the false "Have yourself a merry little Christmas, make the yuletide gay" attempt to manufacture good times in this season; joy that comes from the truth of God, his love and his promises.

During December we'll be reading through the first chapter of Luke, and this morning we'll read chapter 1 verses 1-25 and hear about the angel Gabriel who came and announced the birth of Jesus' cousin, John.

The angel spoke to Zechariah, the one who would be John's father. He spoke to Zechariah in the temple of God:
"Do not be afraid... your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you. Many will rejoice because of his birth. He will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. He will bring many of Israel's people back to the Lord their God. He will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous--to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
I'm hoping we can stop revel a bit in those wonderful promises God gave Zechariah, promises that are made sure because of what God has done through Jesus. (1) Not to be afraid! (2) Prayer has been heard! (3) A son in old age like Abraham and Sarah! (4) The name John meaning "God is full of grace/mercy!" (5) Joy and delight for you and (6) for many! (7) Great in the sight of the Lord! (8) Set apart for God's Spirit... parents worry about their kids but there'd be no reason to worry about this one! AND NOW THE BIG PROMISES of transformation--causes for great joy! (9) Israel's people turning back to God, (10) fathers turning toward their children (11) and peoples disobedience to God changed to righteous wisdom-- (12) that the nation would prepared for God.

What an opportunity he had to tell the good news! What joy! As an experienced priest of God, Zechariah had credibility and respect. He was well known to be a faithful and patient man, having been a part of the Jewish religious ceremonies for decades. Having heard the great news of God, great news for the whole nation, great news that would be believed because his not-too-young and childless wife would become pregnant. He could take that good news and bring it out to the people with a new blessing! He could bring the news to his fellow priests and scholars could examine the scriptures and understand more fully that the Messiah of Israel, the Savior--he was just about ready to arrive! So many would have great joy and many would believe because He, a respected elder among the people, would announce it!

What joy there would be! The rituals and prayers of Israel would be energized because the silence of God had been broken. It would be understood that no matter how long the wait was for the answer to prayer, that the answer would be SURE to come. There would be no more meaningless prayer! The fervor of God's people and their joy would be increased because of Zechariah's testimony. Revival would break out! People with lost relatives would be standing out on porches waiting for their loved ones to come home, children would know that they were loved and secure, life-long rebels would turn to their wise elders for advice and truth, and, instead of watching for signs of a deteriorating society, there would be groups dedicated to seeking signs that the nation was truly turning back to God.

I think of myself and what I and we have learned in the past few months at this particular church. God has spoken to us so clearly, showing us that what we are about as a church is not just about doing religious things but about loving God and loving each other so the world will know God is real! God has come to us through His Word just as the angel Gabriel brought God's Word came to Zechariah in the temple. He has told us that our days of being religious spectators are at an end! And we have acted in faith! Prayer and faith are increasing! More love is being shown! We have a long way to go, but we have experienced a bit of the joy that he promises to those who believe.

That's the only question, you see. There's no question about God's good will toward us or his ability to do great and mighty wonders among us. The only question is if we will believe, if we will trust God's word that goes against our long experience of "church as usual." If we will trust that God is indeed doing great things, bringing hundreds and thousands back to God, people we would never expect to ever believe--if we will trust God and proclaim the good news, letting others know of the signs of God's love we have seen, even if they are small, if we will trust God and say "Hallelujah Lord!" to the ways we see God at work, real joy will break out among us that we will not be able to contain.

The promises the angel brought to Zechariah in the temple were the beginning of the great work God would do in Jesus. And Zechariah got to hear it first.

But he did not believe. It says that in verse 20: "You will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words..." Zechariah didn't believe that his wife could get pregnant. It had been too many years of waiting. He didn't believe they could have children--not even when the angel told him he would. He didn't believe he could give his non-existent son a name. He didn't believe that this son would be a joy and delight, that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit, that he would bring Israel's people back to God, that he would have the spirit and power of Elijah, that God's people would return to Him, that fathers' hearts would be turned to children, that disobedient would be changed, or that people would be prepared for the Lord.

Like so many before him, and so many since, Zechariah couldn't believe that God was really going to do something great, something different. His attitude was that of old King Solomon, who after years of disappointment and compromise would say "All things are wearisome, more than one can say... What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again, there is nothing new under the sun." The world turns again and again. Seasons come and go. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Valentine's, St. Patrick, Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years... 'round and 'round and 'round we go.

Is that your attitude? Are you going through the motions? Or are you expecting God to speak and act and bring newness? I think of myself and what I and we have learned in the past few months at this particular church. God has spoken to us so clearly. Will I believe that God is doing a new thing among us? Will I act on what God has told us and say yes, this IS a new day? Will I believe God is actually forming us into a new community of faith that acts as if we really believe in God? Or will I pull back into religious patterns of preaching and praying without expecting a response?

As we move on to another season of the so-called "church year," will we advance according to what God has said, finding JOY in trusting God and acting on that faith, or if we will retreat into patterns of "going to church" and "going home."

Like Zechariah, we know God's Word, and we are learning more. Many of us are elders--and all of us are priests of God. We know the words of the prophets. We know the power of God as He has worked in us and through us. Most of all we know Jesus who defied every expectation and brought total victory out of death. We have every reason to believe God can do a new thing.

So we will not fall into any Zechariah like patterns of religious life. We will set up Christmas trees, put up lights, share in worship, give offerings, speak God's Word, pray and share communion NOT just to "do" things that we think we should do, but because through those things we bring the good news of God to the world.

God wants us to share real joy! Real joy -- not joy that comes from going through the motions of Christmas -- but joy that springs from the expectation that the nations will be turned back to the Lord, that the hearts of neglectful and cruel fathers will be turned toward their children, that disobedient will be saved through Jesus and receive a new righteousness, and that multitudes will be prepared for the Lord! (Luke 1:17)

And we will expect that God will act now, in December 2014, to do these things in our midst and throughout the world.

When we do, we will live with tremendous joy.

So what have you seen in the temple? What good news has come to you?

Let's spend some time sharing the truth of God as it has come to us.

How has God encouraged you in the last week or month? How have you seen Him at work?

Let's share so the joy can be known near and far.

(At this point we'll do some sharing and testifying to the work of God that we have seen and the Word we have heard.)

www.equalsharing.com

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Beyond Superstition

from Francis Frangipane's facebook Sunday Nov. 23
Last weekend Francis Frangipane posted a few paragraphs on facebook that were adapted from his book The Three Battlegrounds. Those paragraphs are reproduced at the bottom of this blogpost, or you can try clicking here to see the original.

I have followed and liked many brief quotations from his works, and I think I heard him speak once at a conference, but I never read one of his books until this week when I ordered The Three Battlegrounds online, decided I didn't have time to read it; so ended up getting the audio book too.

After listening, I have to say that, aside from a few things in the last part that I can't completely accept as "real" -- at least in as much as I've studied so far, the book is a helpful eye opener to the unseen spiritual truth that we live in in this world. Let me know you're interested and I'd love to loan you the book or share a chapter or two with you of the audio.

page from The Three Battlegrounds
Yesterday I played a bit of chapter 4 for my "retired pastor" father-in-law while asking him about the seminary studies he had experienced back in the 1950s. Chapter 4 of The Three Battlegrounds begins with this paragraph:
"There are satanic strongholds over countries and communities and there are strongholds which influence churches and individuals. Wherever a stronghold exists, it is demonically induced pattern of thinking. Specifically, it is a "house made of thoughts" which has become a dwelling place for satanic activity."
After sharing that paragraph and a few more, I asked my father-in-law if he had heard any teaching about "spiritual warfare" while in seminary? He hadn't. Neither did I in the 80s. We heard a bit about the devil, but there was doubt whether any such being existed. We had formal liturgies and ceremonies that included words about "renouncing" or "rejecting" the devil and "all his works and all his ways," but the only spiritual battles we believed in were (1) personal things like whether or not we would give temptation to sin and decisions about living for self or for God-and-others, or (2) what we would do about larger moral or political issues in the world. The idea that there were actual spiritual beings that could exercise power in or through or over us wasn't something that we took seriously--unless we were in conversation with believers in Africa or other supposedly less sophisticated or enlightened areas of the world. We thought we were beyond superstitions like that.

What Francis Frangipane does in his book is to help those of us who have ignored or laughed at these spiritual realities to understand that there are connections between those things and the physical, emotional and intellectual realms that we have always paid attention to. He does this in part through reminding us of the many teachings of Jesus that have seemed "strange" and mysterious to intellectuals and scholars, teachings about spiritual beings (angels & fallen angels) and other teachings of scripture where these spiritual realities are connected with our patterns of thinking, specifically with truths and untruths (lies). If I understand Francis correctly, he believes that the Bible--including Jesus himself--teaches that those spiritual beings find a "place to live" in those true or false thinking patterns--in persistent beliefs that are true or false, and that they fortify them into strong fortresses of true or false ideas that we end up holding dear.

I've just scratched the surface in this little blogpost. I've tried to write these things as clearly as I am able, but I'm sure more revisions will be needed. And I will hopefully write more about this important topic later. Let's pray, and study the scriptures, so our minds will be transformed, so we believe the truth of God and reject any lies that give the devil a place to live--in our thoughts.

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Francis Frangipane's facebook post of November 23, 6:41 a.m.

THE THREE BATTLEGROUNDS is a book about spiritual warfare. Before I proceed, however, I have two concerns. The first is our need for wisdom. There is an old European proverb worth heeding. It reads: "Age and treachery will always defeat youth and zeal." Before we engage in spiritual warfare, we should know this about Satan: he is an ancient and extremely treacherous foe. On the other hand, the strength of most Christians lies primarily in idealism and untested fervor. It is not long, usually five to ten years in the ministry, and most zeal has waned. Without warning the minister’s call has deteriorated from a walk of vision to a mere job.
     What occurred was that zeal, by itself, challenged the treachery of hell and lost. The brightness of youthful dreams dimmed under the dark cloud of relentless satanic assault. Under the weight of growing frustrations and discouragement, compromise increased, and with it came iniquity and spiritual bondage.
     Yet the real villain was not sin but ignorance. We put the devil in a doctrinal box and expected him to stay there. He did not. He undermined relationships, and our love grew cautious. He resisted us in prayer, and our faith turned weak. Disillusionment set in. After spending much time with struggling pastors, I have seen a common trend in most: They failed to discern the assault of the devil. They stood unprotected against an ancient treacherous foe.
     Jesus prepared His disciples for everything, including spiritual warfare. They watched Him cast out demons; they clearly knew the devil was real. In fact, He sent them forth to also deliver people from demons. But before He sent them out, He charged them to become wise "as serpents" yet innocent and harmless "as doves" (Matt. 10:16). This fusion of divine wisdom and Christlike innocence is the taproot of all spiritual victory. Indeed, we can defeat the enemy, but wisdom must precede warfare and virtue must come before victory.
     Consequently, the goal of this book is to train the church in wisdom and call the church to innocence. We will not disregard what we have previously learned; we will still live by faith. But we must learn the ways of God, which means we must think with wisdom. And we must be pure of heart, that we may see God and gain discernment. Indeed, it is the lack of discernment that has left us vulnerable to satanic attack.
     Of my second concern, let me say that there are no shortcuts to successful warfare, only ways to make it longer and more perilous. One way of peril is to enter battle blinded by presumption. When it comes to waging war effectively, consider carefulness to be the essence of victory.
     Whatever lofty spiritual plane you imagine that you are on, remember: Adam was in Paradise when he fell. Before your increased knowledge and religious experiences make you overly self-confident, recall that Solomon wrote three books of Scripture; he actually gazed upon the glory of God, yet he fell. Yes, even in your deepest worship of the Almighty, do not forget in long ages past Lucifer himself was once in Heaven pouring out praise to God.
     We each know of many who have fallen. Jesus warned that the love of many would grow cold. Do not presume it cannot happen to you. Our enemy has been deceiving mankind for thousands of years. Our experience, on the other hand, spans but a brief moment. It is wisdom to recognize that we do not know all there is to know concerning warfare.
     Therefore, be bold but never brash or arrogant in your prayer life. Use your spiritual authority administratively, compassionately, but never presumptuously. Multitudes of well-meaning but ignorant Christians have approached the field of spiritual battle with flippant attitudes and have suffered greatly for it. Study several books and seek confirmation from the Lord for your strategies. As it is written, "Prepare plans by consultation, and make war by wise guidance" (Prov. 20:18).
      Thus, our purpose here is to help equip you for battle in three primary areas of battlegrounds: the mind, the church and the heavenly places. There are other fields or subcategories of spiritual warfare; however, these are where most of us will face conflict.
     One last note. A few of you will be instrumental in actually saving your cities. Our prayer is that these chapters will help guide and equip you for that goal. The promise of the Spirit speaks thus: "There was a small city with few men in it and a great king came to it, surrounded it and constructed large siegeworks against it. But there was found in it a poor wise man and he delivered the city by his wisdom" (Eccl. 9:14-15).
     While many are predicting the destruction of our nation and the collapse of our cities, they have not considered the power of Christ in you. But remember: "Wisdom is better than strength . . . Wisdom is better than weapons of war" (Eccl. 9:16, 18).
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Adapted from Francis Frangipane's book, The Three Battlegrounds available at www.arrowbookstore.com.

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www.equalsharing.com

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Church and Partnership

Yesterday afternoon I got together with a few of our local church leaders to talk about the question of church "membership," or, as we have called it at Crossroads, "partnership." The word "partnership" as we have used it at Crossroads comes from Philippians 1:5 where the Apostle Paul expresses thankfulness for the way the church in the town of Philippi has shared in "the gospel from the first day until now."

As we shared together in conversation, and as I've been reflecting on it and studying today, I have learned how, in scripture, partnership is truly different than membership.
  • Membership (Greek "melos") applies to the entire Body of Christ, that is, to the church around the world. The word "melos" means "body part." On the other hand:
  • Partnership (Greek "koinonia") is an association of some of the members who respond to a particular call from God to participate in and to support a particular ministry, like that of a local church.
In Philippians 1:5 Paul thanks this one group of Christians for their partnership. He says, a few verses later, that there was a time when they "had no opportunity" to be in partnership with Paul. That means, therefore, that partnerships can be temporary, whereas membership is permanent. And partnerships involve some members of the body, not all.

It seems to me, therefore, that the word "partnership" (or any of the other synonyms such as "fellowship" or "sharing" or "participation") is God-given for the association that so-called "members" of local churches have with one another, and for other supportive relationships within the body, such as partnerships with missionaries and larger associations and alliances.

As I've been studying this for the last hour or so, I've noticed that, in the New Testament, the Greek word for "partnership" is used both for the deep and mysterious spiritual sharing that we have with Jesus and one another in the Body, and also for the friendship and practical support that believers give one another. Partnership (that is "koinonia") can not be separated from the ways we care for one another when some are in need. In fact, in several places, the word "koinonia" simply means "contribution"! I guess this is an practical way that "where your treasure is, your heart will be also."

We began our conversation yesterday by reading the scriptures that we sent out to the church in an email on Thursday.* One of the passages (Acts 4:32-35) we read spoke about the first Christians holding everything "in common" and selling "lands or houses" and distributing "to each as any had need." Someone asked why it is that we seem to keep coming back to scriptures that seem to be "communistic" in some ways. I said that we probably notice those scriptures because our American life is so individualistic when it comes to our finances and possessions. Someone else refocused on the point that the Lord calls us to care for one another when we are in need--and that the selling of our property is connected with that, not on any principle or philosophy that says everyone should be equal.

In any case, Holy Spirit directed fellowship is not stingy or partial. Though our partnerships may be temporary or opportunistic (depending on where we live and who we know at this stage of our life) if they are truly Holy Spirit driven they will be full and open. We will share much more than what is normal when people think about "joining a church."

There's more to share about this, but that's enough for now.
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*You can download Thursday's email that went out to Crossroads here. The scriptures included in that email, and that we read yesterday at our meeting, are the ones we planning on reading tomorrow morning--all from the Community Builders month: John 13:34-35; John 17:22-23; Galatians 6:10; Acts 4:32-35; Colossians 2:12-17. Tomorrow, after some time in the Word of God, we'll share together about how we have seen our Lord growing us into a deeper life together in practical and visible ways -- with one another -- and with our Lord. We'll then pray about how God would lead us to grow even more into these truths.

www.equalsharing.com

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Community of Faith (evaluation)

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 4:17)

This coming Sunday (Oct 26) at Crossroads we'll take time for individual and corporate evaluation of our response to what the Lord has been saying to us over the past months as we have met together. Have our attitudes and actions changed because of what the Lord has been saying to us? Specifically, we'll pray and seek God's evaluation of what we have done, together and individually, with what HE has been saying to us as we have met together this fall. In what ways have we allowed God to transform us? In what ways have we repented, believing God's Word. In what ways is God's transforming work still to be done? What is God calling us to next?

More later.

www.equalsharing.com

Monday, November 17, 2014

Strong in Weakness, Rich in Need (1)

NOTE added Nov. 22 - an audio recording of the Nov. 16 worship gathering is posted here.
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We had an extended church family time and quite a bit of prayer yesterday at Crossroads, so I severely abbreviated the message that I had prepared but said I'd make what I had planned available. They are posted below, just copied and pasted from my prep notes without editing.

In the notes you'll see references to "slides." Those are reminders to myself of when to click the presentation of images on the screen forward. Later on, if I find time, I'll post the slides too.

ALSO - We put a little "Survey of Needs" slip of paper in the bulletin yesterday asking folks to let us know what their needs are and also the needs of others in our local area. I haven't checked yet to see what was turned in.

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A Community of Faith:
Strong in Weakness - Rich in Need
God has a plan.
God has a plan to make you and me—and to make this body of believers—this Crossroads Community Church—God has a plan to take us and make us into a powerful sign of His presence and His love in this world—a sign that will be worked out in weakness and need—because, like the Apostle Paul, we can say
“I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ.”
For “when I am weak, then I am strong.”
We are in the third week of what has become a series under the theme “A Community of Faith.”
According to Hebrews chapter 11, “Faith” is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Faith is the gift God gives us in our time of need—which, in this life—that time of need is every day!
Faith clings to the promises of God.
Those who are right with God live by faith—we do not live according to what our common sense tells us—we live according to what God says.
And there are hundreds of examples of this in the Bible.
Last weekend, at the Alliance of Renewal Churches gathering, Toni picked up this book by Graeme Sellers, a book entitled The Dangerous Kind… and I’ve been eating it up since we got home.
One section of the book has the heading Reckless, and under it Graeme says:
“Reckless obedience is mystifying to the world. Our response to the voice of God will be at best confusing at worst delusional when viewed through the eyes of those who stand outside of the faith.”
He then lists some familiar examples:
Gideon, the least man in the weakest clan whose God-directed plan for defeating a huge enemy army was to cut the number of his troops from 32,000 to 300, and to arm them with nothing but torches, trumpets and clay jars. (Judges 7)
Joshua, who receives orders from God to march around Jericho for seven days, to blow horns on the seventh day and shout and, God said, the walls of the city would fall. (Joshua 6)
The shepherd boy David who goes at a giant enemy without armor but with the Name of the Lord. (1 Sam 17)
A teenager believes God’s Word as it comes to her through an angel—an angel who tells her that she will give birth to the Messiah (Luke 1)
And JESUS himself—Jesus believes his Father so completely that he agrees to die on the cross—taking the sins of the whole world on himself.
These are all examples of faith—faith that is strong in weakness—and rich in need.
And that’s what God is calling US to be.
·        God is calling us to trust him and not to worry.
·        God is calling us to believe His Word and his sweet promises—to believe God so that we listen for what HE has to say to us—and then, when we have heard, to do what he says.
As long as we think we need to protect ourselves by being smart or wise we will not experience the strength, or the wealth, of God.
Last Sunday the Lord spoke to us through someone among us who is neither strong nor wealthy. One of our women brought us a verse from Philippians (1:6):
I am convinced that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you.
He is doing that—though the way he does it is sometimes confusing to us unless we consider it from God’s point of view.
We know that as a body of believers. And we know that as individuals.
God normally brings us down before He lifts us up.
And that’s why we have the scriptures we do today –
SLIDE - From Matthew 11, where it says that God has hidden spiritual truths from those who think of themselves as wise and clever – and, has, instead, revealed them to the “childlike,” or as the Greek says, to little babies.
SLIDE - In 2nd Corinthians Paul boasts in his weaknesses – we’ll come back to that…
SLIDE - In Revelation the Lord speaks to the church at Sardis and says they are rich even though they are poor and suffering!
SLIDE - And then, in Acts 6, God takes the complaints of Greek speaking believers and uses it to expand the organization and spiritual leadership of the first church.
God loves to work in unexpected places and in ways that seem strange—until we get to know the ways of our Lord—and we get to know those ways best when we are weak, when we have needs.
The scripture we had today from Second Corinthians is about how Paul got to know the ways of God. SLIDE
Here the Apostle Paul speaks of “a man” who was “caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago.”
That man was Paul himself – but, to avoid bragging, he speaks about it as if it were someone else.
“I know a man who was caught up [to heaven] … and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell. That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it…” [I’m reading here from the New Living Translation].
Instead, he says, “I will boast only about my weaknesses”… SLIDE and then he goes on to talk about the “thorn in the flesh,” a “messenger from Satan” that was given to him to “torment” him and to keep him from becoming proud.
Three times, he says, “I begged the Lord to take it away” but each time God said to him, and let’s read these words together: “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”
And then he says SLIDE:
“So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
KEEP SLIDE UP
If you take time to read the books of First and Second Corinthians and the rest of what Paul wrote, you’ll see that he really does boast about his weaknesses.
He admits that some people think he’s a crazy fool…
He writes that some people say he’s a poor speaker without proper credentials or recommendations.
Paul had such strong convictions…  He was very sure of himself and probably not all that easy to get along with. More than once Paul writes about the challenges he had with relationships…
In Romans 7 he writes as if he is in despair about his sin.
And just what the “thorn in the flesh” was we do not know… it could have been a physical ailment, it might have a person who persistently got in the way of his work.
But the point is this, this great man of God—the Apostle Paul—he does not hide his weaknesses—in fact, he says—like Gideon or Joshua or David or Mary or even Jesus Christ himself—when I am weak—when I’m in a position that there is NO WAY OUT except by the POWER OF GOD—then I am strong—because that’s when the Father shows himself to be my savior and my God.
The Apostle Paul is honest about his needs too.
This summer at Leadership Quest we spent time in Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy –
In chapter 4 of Second Timothy Paul shares:
·        His need for friendship and companionship (he speaks about how he is alone and that he has only  one friend to be with him, Luke)
·        His need for material possessions. (he needs a coat. He needs books and papers—the tools of his work.)
·        He mentions his need for financial support (see 2 Corinthians 11:9)
·        He asks for prayer (1 Corinthians 1:9)
·        He was honest about his need for allies, for fellow workers, for co-laborers (example 1 Cor 16:15ff)
The truth is that Paul was part of a great community of faith—a community that extended through the entire  is Paul’s honesty about his weaknesses and his needs that allowed him to be as effective as he was.
Paul does not believe that his weaknesses or needs disqualify him from doing God’s work!
No, on the contrary, they make him strong!
Why does he talk about his weaknesses and needs?
Not to make himself look small or unqualified!
No!
Because God’s power works best in weakness!
When we can’t depend upon ourselves, that’s when God does his best work!
That’s faith!
Other examples: from Paul’s life… Peter and John… “silver and gold have I none…” OT (p. 128f Dangerous Kind)
The binding together of the community of people who have needs… not all have every gift… God arranges the body as he chooses…
And not just for individuals… for the community…
Acts 6.
[something about the cards turned in during October and what they say about our need to be vulnerable… the other results from Community Builders’ month.]
It begins with salvation – God saves those who admit they can’t save themselves…
And that pattern continues throughout our lives as disciples of the Lord.
Will you do the same? Will you be open about your weaknesses and your needs?
Will you depend up on the power of God?
Or will you depend upon your own strength?
Will we allow God to use the circumstances of our individuals lives and the life of our body of believers to make us depend upon him and rely upon his strength?
Let’s pray…
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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Live from Love, Joy and Rest

From our son Dan's facebook page on Nov. 13 -

As the world works, we are generally motivated in life by fear, shame, or jealousy. Obligation and the desire to perform for the opinions of others drives us to become disciplined, happy, or loving. This becomes such a normal way to operate that it is difficult to navigate life when you realize the freedom you actually have. When you realize that the opinions of others don't really matter and that it is more important how you function on the inside then on the outside.

Jesus set us free so that we would live from love, joy, and rest. Rather than being motivated by fear of doing something wrong, we need to learn how to make choices out of a desire for goodness. This freedom can be so different than what we are used to, that for a while you feel helpless and even unable to do what you know you should.

Choices are made powerful only when multiple options are available; and our hearts are designed to relate with both God and people in a way that is motivated by joy and the desire for connection. Making choices because you want to is way different then if you feel like you have to.

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See also "Love Does Not Envy" on Dan's blog.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

ARC Thanks and Leadership Question

I sent the following email to Mike Bradley of the Alliance of Renewal Churches this afternoon - his reply follows. We at Crossroads can learn from the ARC leadership team. As leaders, they find it good to spend significant time together in worship and listening prayer. Should the leaders of Crossroads do this? Can we? Let's pray and talk together about this.

Dear Mike,

I absolutely loved the ARC gathering. The speakers were inspiring (can't wait to get the recordings if they'll be available), the workshops were helpful (I'll mark the ones I went to on the schedule that I'll attach below), the worship was more than music (wow!), and the times of prayer and prophetic ministry were bold examples of Holy Spirit led freedom. Thank you for your part!

I'm looking forward to many more opportunities to get together with you all, either in person or in writing (like I'm doing now). My wife Toni picked up Graeme Sellers book The Dangerous Kind and I'm hoping we can gather a few people in our area to read and pray through it. Paging through a bit makes me really look forward to doing that!

It was a great example to all of us that you said, on Saturday, that it seems to you that the Lord is leading in a particular direction as to (1) whether, (2) when, and (3) under what theme to meet again as an ARC Midwest Gathering in 2015.

I assume it is you and the leadership team that are seeking the Lord's desire about this together.

Would you be willing to share a bit about the process of discernment that you and the leadership team use? Do you meet only in person to do this? If you use telephone or skype or something, could you share with me how you do this?

I'm asking because I believe it's always best for a team of people to seek God together instead of just relying on one solo leader as sometimes happens in local churches. I've been a part of Per Nilsen's network, which has been really helpful for me (and I continue to be on the phone with the Community of Hope and the Mission Point folks for prayer most mornings at 6:00 AM) BUT it's not the same as having a LOCAL team of pray-ers.

I'm hoping to learn from the process that the ARC uses in your discernment, not to copy it here, but to see what elements are important.

Thank you again.

Steve Thorson
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And here is Mike's reply:

Hi Steve,

I'm glad you attended and were blessed.
The ARC National Leadership Team is always praying. On top of that we meet face to face 3 times a year for 2 1/2 days at a time; a large portion of that which is spent in worship and listening prayer. We also meet via conference call once a month the rest of the year. When appropriate and necessary we also involve other select ARC leaders in praying through and discussing issues specific to their expertise.
Mike
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Here's the schedule we followed at the three day ARC gathering.



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Monday, November 10, 2014

To God Be the Glory (testimonies)

The following video is from the last Sunday of the Community Builders month that we shared at Crossroads. To God be the glory great things He has done. (Posting now because we have permission from all the participants.)



Yesterday we were blessed with testimonies too --

Here are two that came via social media (facebook)

This one is thanks to God for prayer ministry at the Alliance of Renewal Churches Gathering from someone who has suffered from fibromyalgia:
...thank you for your prayers. [Spouse] and I had a great day. We walked portion of the Nicollet Mall. And we walked to the Mississippi River. In total miles we walked was 2.25 miles. I had no pain at all today. I haven't taken a pain pill either. This has been the most relaxed day I have experience[d] since 3 years ago. When my life changed. Thank you once more. God is good!
The other was shared by someone from our local church in Cokato:
I had spent many years putting on a mask pretending everything is alright especially on Sunday morning. It feels so good to be real and to allow myself to receive instead of only wanting to give. Thank you Jesus for showing me your love this morning through the hugs, the prayers, the concern [for] how I am feeling, the many offers to give me a ride, the use of a battery charger, and the use of a car and a computer while ours is down. I am so blessed God led me [___] to be part of such a wonderful church family.
I am overwhelmed with gratitude to God! When we step out in faith we will be blessed to have a part in what God is going in the world today!

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Community of Faith (part 3)

This is the third part of (a revised version of) a message shared at Crossroads on November 2. An audio recording of the message (with prayer and communion) can be listened to by clicking HERE.   This part of the message led into a celebration of the Lord's Supper. (Click links for the [first] and [second] parts, posted yesterday.)

Let's pray:
Where are our sacred cows, Father? What is there besides our lack of vulnerability, our nature that would want to keep things private, what is there in our midst that needs to be dealt with? What is it, God, that you desire us to do when needs come to us? Will you show us, Lord? Will you help us to get organized quickly so that we can come alongside those who are in need in wise, practical ways? Help us, Lord. Deal with the demons of worry. Deal with our need to cling and clutch.
God cares about how we treat one another, especially about how we treat those who are in need.

In the part of the Bible we read when we share Communion (1 Cor 11:17-33), our Lord reminds us how important it is to treat the poor with honor and respect. It's not okay to go ahead and feast and let others go without. Verse 22 says, in part, "Do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?" We "eat and drink judgment on ourselves" when we do not examine ourselves in regard to way we honor or dishonor one another in the body. The church is the Body of Christ just as surely as is the bread we share at the Table of the Lord.

One more example to share before we have communion together from "God Cares About People: A Pentecostal Perspective from Luke/Acts" by Craig S. Keener.
Charles Finney, a 19-century evangelist who led perhaps half a million people to Christ, preached on Luke 14:33 at a wealthy church in Boston. In this passage Jesus, explaining the cost of the Kingdom, warned that no one can be His disciple who does not surrender all possessions (14:33). After Finney was done, the local pastor, Lyman Beecher, closed Finney’s sermon by assuring his congregation that God would never ask them to give up their possessions; they simply needed to be "willing" to do so. Finney countered that God can demand of us what He wishes; we do not lose all our possessions at the moment of our conversion (when we come to Jesus), but we do lose our ownership of them.
When you become owned by Jesus, guess who gets all your stuff? Jesus does!

Charles Finney understood that if Christ is truly Lord of our life, He is also Lord of everything we have.

Do we understand this? Are we going to take time to consider these things and apply them to our lives? Or are we going to continue to live as we always have?

We can't leave out any of these teachings and think that we are truly a Community of Faith. If we do not apply them to our lives, we are not really trusting God. **

Sharing communion now from First Corinthians 11:
For I received from the Lord the teaching that I passed on to you: that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took a piece of bread, gave thanks to God, broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in memory of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup and said, “This cup is God’s new covenant, sealed with my blood. Whenever you drink it, do so in memory of me.” This means that every time you eat this bread and drink from this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. It follows that if anyone eats the Lord’s bread or drinks from his cup in a way that dishonours him, he or she is guilty of sin against the Lord’s body and blood. So then, you should all examine yourselves first, and then eat the bread and drink from the cup,
Take a moment for that examination according to what God has said to us today.

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** I had planned to share the following quote from Dean Ulrich of Chinese Reformed Theological Seminary on on Nov. 2 (from his sermon on Habakkuk 2:4 that you can download here) but decided to leave it for a later date:
Living by faith involves faithfulness to God’s commands. God calls us to obey his commands even when obedience seems silly or dangerous.

But living by faith is more than obedience. It is trust in the faithfulness of God. This means depending on God for the breath that we take, the food that we eat, and the roof under which we sleep. Living by faith means relying on God for the direction that we take or that life takes us. It means believing that God will work out our mistakes for our ultimate good and redeem the labor of our hands for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom.

The reason that we dare to obey God is because we know, on the basis of what he has already done for us in Jesus, that he won’t let us down. He will care for us even in the midst of great hardship or contrary evidence. We know that God’s kingdom will come and so act accordingly as God’s holy and elect people.
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Please pray that we will follow up this message on Nov. 9 in a way that honors all that the Lord desires.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Community of Faith (part 2)

This is the second part of (a revised version of) a message shared at Crossroads on November 2. An audio recording of the message (with prayer and communion) can be listened to by clicking HERE. One of the scriptures read was from Luke 12:13-34. I'd encourage you to read it.  This is a continuation of the first part posted earlier today.

To be a community of faith is to be known, in some ways, for what we do; for what we do in our relationships with one another, with brothers and sisters in faith.

And that's why one of the things Jesus was really careful to do was to teach us about caring for one another in practical ways, and not leaving anyone to the side, not leaving anyone out, especially when some in the community are experiencing good fortune.

To be a community of faith means that we will live by faith in everything that we do. In everything that we do we will not just follow our own opinions, we won't follow what the society or the culture or the majority or the advertisers or all of the other people "out there" are telling us to do, instead, we will live according to the faith, according to what Jesus has to teach us. We will live according to the Word of God.

In Luke 12:13-34 that was read on Sunday, we had three stories. The first was directed toward someone who thought he had been shortchanged by his brother. The second one was about being anxious and worried. And the third one says this: "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

You see, faith is not something that is just about a religious opinion. Faith is not something that just lives in our brain. Faith has to do with the way that we live, the way that we love and the way that we care--and the way that we obey.

Warren Wiersbe,  well known Bible scholar, who is also a former director of the radio broadcast "Back to the Bible" says this: "To live by faith means to believe God’s Word and obey it no matter how we may feel, what we see, or what the consequences may be. This is illustrated in the famous 'by faith' chapter of the Bible, Hebrews 11. The men and women in that chapter accomplished extraordinary things because they trusted God and did what He told them to do. It has been well said that faith is not believing in spite of evidence; it’s obeying in spite of consequence, resting on God’s faithfulness."

Now, at the end of the section where we are hearing about "not worrying" we had those words we already read (here in a different translation, Luke 12:32-24): "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out [the other translation says "moneybags" or you could say "bank accounts"], a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Many times Christians get caught up in the way that our culture and our neighbors handle things including money. We get caught up in thinking that we need to provide for ourselves, that the primary reason why I work hard is so I will have money saved up, so that, at some point in my life, I can say "Oh soul, take your ease, eat, drink, be merry, for I have treasures laid up for many years." What does that sound like to you? In practical terms? RETIREMENT!

And in Luke 12 Jesus teaches against it! Read Jesus' little parable in verses 16-21 where the "rich man" says to himself "“Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry." And God calls him a fool.

Is retirement my aim in life? Is that what I work for and hope for? For us in the USA retirement is Sacred Holy. And here Jesus our Lord is preaching against that treasured ideal.

And then we have folks from our own body here who are living on extremely limited income who don't have enough to get their car repaired. And then we have Thanksgiving coming up. And thanksgiving is the time when remember and give thanks for all that God has given. What does that mean for us?

Let's pray.

(part 3 of this message is HERE)

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