Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Some of the Work We Do

Crossroads Community Church does significant work with people (families, couples and others) in need in the Dassel-Cokato area.

We don't just hand money out, we develop long term relationships, spend much time in prayer and ministry, help people find and keep employment, housing and education, encourage them to do all they can to "help themselves" and help them find medical, psychological, spiritual and financial assistance in coordination with professionals and county and state agencies (including law enforcement). 

Many of those we work with live lives that are complicated with physical illnesses and handicaps, histories of abuse, broken or difficult family relationships (often since childhood), addictions, and the long lasting consequences of past sins, crimes and actions that they now regret.  PLEASE PRAY for those we work with!  If you want I can give you more information about them so you can pray specifically.

We need your help. Consider designating a gift to the Crossroads "Discretionary Fund." Give through the offering on Sunday or send a check to Crossroads Community Church, P.O. Box 295, Cokato, MN 55321.

One reason we do this work is that our corner of Wright and Meeker counties does not have "county services" that are easily accessible by those who do not have the $ necessary for reliable transportation. 

Please pray and consider an extra gift this week. I can provide more information about the people we're serving if you ask and can give you information about just how your gift will be used.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Preparing for Thursday

On Thursday of this week we'll gather at Crossroads to share the Lord's Supper.  Thursday is "the night in which he [Jesus] was betrayed."  We call it Maundy* Thursday but this day goes by many other names. It's the night when we remember, in words and actions, what Jesus did on that night before he was arrested.

Several of our young people have been learning about the Lord's Supper in recent weeks, and, for some, Thursday will be the first time they will receive the bread and the wine (or juice -- we give an option at our church).  There is no rule about when children may begin partaking of the "elements" of communion, the bread and wine.  That's a decision we leave to parents.  I emailed the parents about details today (Monday).

This gift of God, given through Jesus, known as communion or "the Lord's Supper" or "eucharist" etc. is not something that can be completely explained on this earth.  There are so many understandings of it.  Go to the links found at "Lord's Supper (disambiguation)" on Wikipedia for a sample.

Christian believers do agree, however, that "it is reenacted in accordance with Jesus' instruction at the Last Supper, as recorded in several books of the New Testament, that his followers do in remembrance of him as when he gave his disciples bread, saying, 'This is my body,' and gave them wine saying, 'This is my blood.'"  We will certainly do that on Thursday!

As I write today I'm considering and praying about some of the specifics of how the Lord may be leading us to share communion and the Word of God on this particular Maundy Thursday.

We are going through a series of messages on the Ten Commandments (counting backwards from ten) and we have a decision to make about whether to address the remaining commandment(s) on Thursday or on Easter Sunday or both.  Right now I'm inclined to focus on different aspects of these commandments on each day: the prohibition of having other gods or worshiping "images" (a.k.a. idols) on Thursday and the celebration of having a God who saves us on Sunday.

I'm drawn the issue of "not having other gods" in connection with communion because believers in Jesus are often attached to a particular way of sharing communion.  We have learned that at Crossroads because a few months ago we heard that some people (I have no idea how many) had a desire to share communion in one way.  That "way" is as follows:
  • Everyone who wants communion comes to the front and receives the bread and wine from a communion server.  To do this everyone stands in line. At some churches there is a place provided for people to kneel while they receive, eat, drink and pray.  At other churches (such as at Crossroads) the people eat and drink as they get to the front (while standing in line).
We have experimented with a variety of other ways of sharing communion, for example:
  • The bread and wine are handed down the aisles and each person takes their share (a piece of bread and a little cup of wine/juice) and hold the bread and wine in their hands until all can eat and drink together as the appropriate scripture is read.
  • Once or twice we put small tables around the church with bread and wine/juice on each one and had families and others share together as the scriptures were read.
  • A few times we have invited people to come individually to the altar/table to take the bread and wine on their own, communing with God one on one.
So the question is, when do "habits" become more than habits?  When do "attachments" do the ways we do things become idols, that is, when do they start to become so ingrained that switching the way the communion is done make it seem like we're not truly sharing the Lord's Supper at all?

Please pray for us as we prepare.

* More about the word "Maundy" toward the bottom of a 2012 post called "Healing Communion."


Looking Ahead

(I'm submitting this to the Dassel-Cokato Enterprise-Dispatch as one of their weekly pastor's columns.  I think it will appear in that next week)

If you're like me you will often be tempted to worry about what is going to happen in the days to come.  I'm writing this column at the beginning of Holy Week (the week before Easter) and I can sense that temptation.  There are too many things coming up this week--too many responsibilities--too many things to do.  How will I handle it all?

But the Lord comes to me with his promise: Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)  Cast all your anxieties on God, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:5)  Do not be anxious about anything, but pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all He has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your heart and your mind--in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

So I will rest in God's promises, and do my work with full trust in God's promises--promises for today, for tomorrow, and for the rest of my life here--and for eternity!  I will trust God's promise today and throughout this week.  God invites and encourages you to do the same!  He will bless you when you do.

And if you lack trust, get to know JESUS!  Let me know if I can help you in any way.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Setting People Free to Follow Jesus

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to religious requirements. Jesus has paid all that is necessary to save us and bless us. Believe it! It's so good!

Pray for any brothers or sisters in Christ who are not fully aware of the freedom Jesus gives.

Especially tonight pray for young people who may feel religious pressure instead of hearing Christ's call as a sweet invitation to a blessed and full life. 

And pray for parents and grandparents and other elders who are being called by God to that narrow road between letting their children and youth do "whatever" and controlling them too much.

(See Galatians 5.)


Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Grace of This Day

Toni and I got back into town (Cokato) about 30 minutes ago after going in to spend some time in the "Cities" today.  One of my sisters and her husband had invited us to the Theater in the Round so we went to a performance and then stayed after for a discussion with the cast and director.  Then we went up to see the home that my daughter and husband are planning to purchase and ended up going for a walk with them and my sister/brother in law at Como Park. 

During that time we got a call from my son Jon (married to Breanna) telling us that their car had been stolen and recovered, but soon after we learned that the thief (or thieves) had fled from the police in their car and that the car was "totaled."  We don't know details yet but I'm asking prayers of protection for my son and his wife and their child (to be born in August).  After our walk in the park my sister and her husband and their son brought us to a restaurant where we had dinner.  Then we drove home.

Before all that we had a good morning in the Word of God.  I was thankful for the way God worked to put a special time of worship together  Several people came forward for prayer and we heard a message on Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy -- which we do by being bathed in the Word of God.  I'm thankful for those who led worship and preached today and I'm praying that we would allow God to mold the patterns of our lives according to His Word and His Spirit and NOT according to the ways of the world. 

Anyway, I just wanted to say "hi" at the end of this good day.  I am praising God for His immeasurable grace and the abundance of His love that we experienced.  I'm so thankful for the promises of God that we can all trust in no matter what happens on any given day.  Let's share all the Lord has given us, spiritually and materially, so we grow in that trust and banish fear.

Peace to you in Jesus' name.


Friday, April 4, 2014

God's Not Dead

some of the 40 in the Hutchinson theater lobby
On Wednesday evening, thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit, a group of 30 youth, plus some of their adult leaders, parents and friends from the DC area (about 40 in all) were blessed with a "field trip" to Hutchinson where we saw the movie "God's Not Dead."

Besides the movie itself, God showed himself as He inspired one of our adults to (1) notice that the movie was playing at a time that would work for our group and (2) sent a text message to some of the other adults involved with our youth.
I'm praising God that I work alongside Holy Spirit filled women and men who don't mind a "last minute" change of plans.  As you can see, the idea came to us on Monday morning, only two days before.  Thank you Jesus for these friends and partners in the gospel!

It doesn't always work as smoothly as it did this time.  Sometimes we'll share ideas that will take longer to act upon.  I do, however, want to send this as an encouragement to act when the Holy Spirit speaks to you, to not remain silent, to let the Lord take control.

I'd like to write more, but my snow shovel is calling!  School is two hours late and it'll take awhile to get the car out of the driveway I think.

 God's Not Dead!  Look for Him in action today!


Thursday, April 3, 2014

On Sunday, after the Snow...

view from church building office looking east
We have a spring snowstorm that's just beginning. Cars and trucks are whipping by out on Hwy 12. It may not be so easy come tomorrow morning.

BUT IT IS SPRING!  It won't be long until we're warming up!  By this weekend it will be in the 40s and next week in the 50s!  YAY!  Praise God!  Don't despair!  New life is on it's way!

Besides the change in the weather, we're looking forward to a special morning on Sunday.  Worship will be led by Don Begarowicz and a group of others who he's gotten to know over the last few years through our church.  (See below for more about Don & his wife Robin.)

I wanted to give a heads up on how we're planning to proceed on Sunday. 

One thing we've learned as we've been studying scripture together in various groups for the last year or more is that the way we typically do our Sunday morning service isn't really "set" or "commanded" by God.  Therefore, from time to time we have changed things up a bit and we plan to do that this Sunday (as we announced on March 30).  We want everyone to be as comfortable as possible so we're sharing this now.

Here's what we're looking forward to on Sunday morning April 6:
  • After a song and our "church family time" with some explanation of the day, we'll begin with the first part of the Lord's Supper -- "On the night he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, 'This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.'"
  • This Sunday's homemade bread will be gluten free.
  • The New Testament tells how the disciples came together to share the Lord's word with a meal.  Our Sunday April 6 "meal" will be the Word itself.  We live 'by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.' (Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4).
After the first part of communion -
  • Don will share his personal testimony to how God has been at work in his life.
  • We'll have some time for prayer ministry, for worship in song and offering.
  • Then Don will share a message on Remembering the Sabbath to Keep it Holy.  This will be part of the series we're sharing on the Ten Commandments.  Click here to learn more. 
  • Toward the end of the service we will share the wine (or grape juice as an alternative) as we see in the Word of God: "In the same manner He (Jesus) also took the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.'  For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes."  This will be the "second part" of communion.
Those who will be leading worship on Sunday would like to encourage everyone to get involved in spiritual growth beyond our weekly time of worship.  It is through participating in these prayer and study opportunities that we are set free to share the Lord's love in a variety of ways, including what we will share this coming Sunday.

Some of these spiritual Growth opportunities are:
+ Daily Prayer and Bible reading - check out the resources available on a table near our building entrance.
+ Sunday morning Bible study
+ Monday evening "Christian Camaraderie" at the Begarowicz home.
+ Tuesday evening prayer (here) or Bible study at Morris Excavating.
+ Wednesday evening youth and "JAM" and the women's study at Denise Ertl's.

Now, as I promised above, I'll take time to say a little more about the Begarowiczes because they are relatively new to the Cokato area. I appreciate both Don and Robin so much.  They are friendly, positive, hard-working, "get it done" people who I've grown to trust since they first appeared in our community in 2011.

Christmas 2011
Don (on your right, back row)
Robin (also on your right, front row)
Don and Robin came to the DC area back in 2011 (my guess) to be resident managers at the Cokato Lake RV Resort and Campground.  Not only did they jump in and sing with our choir that year, and not only have they become key leaders in our church (Robin on the board of directors and Don as an indispensable member of our Audio-Visual crew, not to mention the ones who have decorated the church for Christmas two years in a row!) they've taken Holy Spirit powered initiative to form the already mentioned "Holy Spirit Christian Camaraderie" at their home, inviting any and all on Monday evenings for conversation, worship, prayer and scripture study.  It's been great!

I am very much looking forward to Sunday, after the snow.  I hope you are too.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Place to Live

I am doing my best to help a couple find a place to live in Buffalo, MN. They are both employed but their income is limited. Challenging issues make it difficult for them to qualify for regular subsidized housing. Please pray and if you have any ideas please email me steve@equalsharing.com or call me at 763-291-3499. Thank you.


Monday, March 31, 2014

Logic, Politics, Consequences--and Truth

One of my favorite professors from my college days was the man pictured at right. Bruce R. Reichenbach is his name. He's still listed on the Augsburg College website.  He must be well up in years by now because I was at Augsburg more than 30 years ago... actually, almost 40 now.  The first class I took from him was in the fall of 1974.

Dr. Reichenbach strengthened within me a passion to follow the truth wherever it leads. (Here's a link to his webpage.)

There are many examples of how his teaching has affected my life and ministry. Particularly through classes such as "Logic" and "The Philosophy of Religion" I was introduced to an "logical fallacies."

Logical fallacies are tricks people use to get someone to believe something that is false. There are many fallacies - you can access a list on Wikipedia by clicking here.

Don't be tricked!  The devil is the "father of lies" and "logical fallacies" are one of the ways that he works in this world, coming to steal and kill and destroy.

One kind of fallacy is the "Association" or "Guilt by Association" fallacy.
This form of the argument is as follows:
1. Source S makes claim C.
2. Group G, which is currently viewed negatively by the recipient, also makes claim C.
3. Therefore, source S is viewed by the recipient of the claim as associated to the group G and inherits how negatively viewed it is.

An example of this fallacy would be "My opponent for office just received an endorsement from the Puppy Haters Association. Is that the sort of person you would want to vote for?"

(from an article found here.)
Here's a example in regard to the "Climate Change" issue from Climate Conservatives.  The author here is warning people to avoid the association fallacy.
Don’t Let Al Gore or President Obama Get in the Way

A climate conservative realizes that the positions taken by Al Gore or President Obama on climate change are irrelevant to the facts and should not shape the way conservatives approach the issue. Choosing to ignore a real problem simply because liberals acknowledged it first, is not conservative–and doing so limits options for addressing it to ideas proposed by liberals.

When it comes to how conservatives view climate change, Al Gore has been the 500- pound donkey in the room. Many conservatives are skeptical of climate change simply because Gore made it his pet issue. Conservatives should not give Gore, Obama, or any other liberal that kind of power over their thinking.

If Gore decides to champion the cleanup of a river that is clearly polluted, his advocacy does not make the river any more or less polluted, nor does it have any bearing on the merits of cleaning up the river. In the 1980s Gore sounded the alarm about ozone depletion, but it was President Reagan who pushed through the international treaty that actually did something about it.

(you can read the rest of this here)
Here's the point: You may be a conservative or a liberal or somewhere in between -- but please don't let your like or dislike of "messengers" keep you from examining the truth.

Another way that people often avoid the truth is through an "Appeal to Consequences."

People will use this fallacy in order to avoid having to make difficult decisions.

In the case of climate change, for example, if one were to come to the conclusion that climate change is caused by the way we human beings are using resources, there may need to be significant changes in the way we live our lives as individuals and as a society. Regulations and even multinational governmental action may be required. If you are already opposed to governmental or "United-Nations-like" intervention you may choose to not believe the science.  Or you or I may be selfish and resist anything that might affect our comfortable "first world" lifestyle.  Uff.

You can learn more about this "Appeal to Consequences" fallacy here.

Climate change, of course, is not the only area of concern where we can fall prey to lies.  I'm thinking about this today, in particular, because another climate change report was just issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. No matter what your opinion may be about "intergovernmental" work, I believe Christians--especially Christians--need to be paying close attention to this scientific work.  If not, we may promote the devil's agenda in this world.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

These Days

Good evening friends.  It's the end of a long day.  Early today I was in a car accident -- I'm fine -- but my favorite car, a Honda Civic that I got from my uncle, has significant damage to the left rear.  We'll see if it's fixable.  It's in the hands of the insurance company now.

We got a rental car so we're not car-less, though we are down to one... our Ford Focus is being used by our son Dan while he's looking for another car himself because the van he was using (our "Dilly" a.k.a. "the wedge" see Toni's eulogy at right) gave up the ghost last week.  None of the options he's looking at have worked out yet.  We're helping the best we can, and part of that is letting him use one of our cars so he can get to work.

I'm back home now after youth (a great evening at JAM).  I'm listening to the news about the missing Malaysian airliner.  We've also been paying attention to the complex Crimean/Russian/Ukrainian situation.  And I'm getting ready to preach on the commandment "You shall not kill."  This business with cars is such a small thing.

For enjoyment I've been having fun with pictures that I took in two different Brazilian communities 30 years ago, scanned during Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year's break and have since uploaded to facebook.  Acquaintances from both areas are commenting and liking and sharing and "friending" me.  Honestly, it's so much fun to see the appreciation from these people, some of whom did not have access to photography back in 1983-84.  If I had some time I'd write personally to each one.  (If you want to see the pictures go here for the Ceil├óndia album, and here for Rio Pardinho.)

There's no ministry point to all of this today, I just wanted to get something written tonight.  I'm curious what God will do through it all.

God's peace to you tonight.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Flesh and Faith

It was a warm day.  Snow is melting even now at 10:00 p.m.  Looking at the forecast there aren't more highs predicted in the upper 40s, but it's nice to have this one.  Earlier today I connected downspouts and extensions to keep the melt water away from the house but will most likely disconnect them tomorrow since we'll be back to just above freezing days and well below freezing nights soon.  But spring is coming.

God cares about "nature."  Sometimes Christian believers forget how big our God is.  There are some spiritual philosophies that make it seem as though God wants to separate us from physical, natural life, but that teaching is not in harmony with what I read in the Bible.  Not only is God the creator and maintainer of all things physical, God chose to enter nature by taking on human flesh (in the "incarnation"), live with us in the man Jesus, experience suffering and death as a prelude to a bodily resurrection.  God cares about the physical "natural" world.

In our series of Sunday messages on the Ten Commandments we've been counting backward from the purely spiritual (coveting) to words (testimony) to possessions (stealing).  Next comes the area of intimate, physical, bodily relationships as in "You Shall Not Commit Adultery."  I'm preparing to preach on that on March 16.

One thing that has been highlighted for me as we've been going along though this series, especially last week as we talked about stealing, is that for God there is no separation between "faith" and any other part of our lives.  Our actions, good and bad, out attitudes, our "heart" and "mind," and our physical bodies go together.  It's not all about our thoughts and intentions. God cares about what happens in the real, physical world--and what happens in the physical connects with the spiritual.  Every time.

An example of this is found in First Corinthians 6.  In that chapter, beginning at verse 12, the Lord rejects the idea that what happens with our bodies doesn't matter to Him.  In verses 19-20 He says:
"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, who you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your body."
We also find this connection in scriptures about physical healing--verses that are sometimes connected with the forgiveness of sins.  I often think of the way that Jesus forgave the sins of the paralytic before healing him--and of what the Lord teaches us in James:
"Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." (James 5:16)
Returning to First Corinthians 6:12 and following, we see that the sexual unions that we have with others are of great concern to God.  I plan to share more about this in the days to come as I prepare to preach on "You shall not commit adultery," but for now let's just say that it's obvious that physical sexual unions are never just "casual" or unimportant.  Verse 16 says that the physical union, even when there is no emotional or spiritual connection, still makes a person "one" in body with another.  Every sexual connection we have with another affects us--in a way that is deeper than we may realize at the time.
"All other sins we commit are outside our bodies, but the one who sins sexually sins against his own body... [which] is a temple of the Holy Spirit." (v. 18,19)
Bodies matter.  Your life in connection with others, especially in terms of sexual connections--it affects you very deeply.  God's plan for such unions is called "marriage," a way for man and woman to come together in a lifelong union where God's faithfulness is reflected and appreciated, and where new life may come to be as children are conceived and born.

There's lots more to say, but this is a start.  Pray that God will grant good counsel as we prepare for Sunday.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Scriptures for Lent and Every Season

I started writing this at about 5 AM - I'm getting back to it now at 11.  I've got a few minutes while I'm waiting for the "Team Sports" class to finish up their broomball game.

When I get up in the morning, either when the alarm goes off or, like today, an hour or so before that, I take some time to read and meditate on the Word of God.

I've done this regularly, according to a set pattern, only since sometime in 2012 when the Lord connected me with a group of pastors and others who gather for prayer on the phone at 6:30 a.m.  For about 2 years I regularly phoned in and was a part of that group.  (See the end of Praying These Days for more about that.)

My morning bus route has changed a bit since then so I don't connect as often on the telephone for prayer, but I have continued to accompany this group in the reading of scripture--readings that follow the "Moravian Daily Texts."

If you don't have a regular pattern of scripture reading and prayer that works for you, I invite you to join me in this practice for awhile.  You might want to do this beginning tomorrow, a day that is, for some Christians, recognized as "Ash Wednesday" -- the first day of the "western" church's observance of Lent. Or, if you don't observe "Lent," it's still a good day to begin reading the Bible and praying on a regular basis. 
(For more about "Lent" as an "option" for Christians, see Gray or Grey?  If you live in the Dassel-Cokato area you might want to come to prayer tonight and on other Tuesdays.  Another option would be to come alongside our high school youth for "JAM" tomorrow night at 7:00 PM.  Give me a call and I'll fill you in on where we're meeting and what you can expect.  Those are great way to grow spiritually during this season.)
Early this morning I was reading Psalm 33:1-5, Exodus 10 (the whole chapter), and Matthew 21:12-22 together with the following key verses:
  • Watchword for the Day - "David found strength in the Lord his God."  (First Samuel 30:6)
  • Doctrinal Text - "For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1)
It's good to begin the day with God's Word.  Beginning this way brings my mind into line with God. Without a regular practice of Bible reading and prayer we end up being driven by feelings, the people around me, or popular opinion.  When I regularly read scripture and pray, however, I'm less likely to just be tossed around by whatever is going on around me.  Even the questions I have when reading scripture -- and there are many! -- even those questions will lead me to be more open to direction from God.

On Sunday (March 2) we handed out a "prayer guide" at Crossroads that provides an outline for a daily quiet time with the Lord.  This particular guide was especially provided for those who desire to observe the season of "Lent."  Download the "Lenten prayer guide" by clicking HERE.

At its heart you'll find the "Moravian Daily Texts" listed there for this week together with the following encouragements:
  • Take time for the reading of scripture.
  • As you read, don't rush.  Pause at words or phrases that catch your attention, words or phrases that push you spiritually or that make you rejoice.
  • Ask God to speak to you as you read.
  • When you have finished with your reading of scripture, take time for praise and intercession: praying for your own needs, for the needs of those you love, and for the needs of the world, that our Father God's will would be done everywhere.
    (Go here to see the Moravian Daily Texts for today.)
I don't personally identify strongly with any particular church denomination.  I appreciate the Moravian tradition of daily Bible readings, and the Lutheran focus on the Word of God, so this practice is pretty a good fit for me--though I'm not as "organized" as some... prayer flows right into the readings and the readings overflow into prayer.

I invite you to join me for this season.  Let me know you're doing so.  That will be an encouragement.

God's peace to you all.  Looking forward to seeing some of you tonight!


Added Wednesday morning - For some other ways to read scripture during this time before Easter - go to http://blog.youversion.com/2014/03/prepare-for-easter-share-in-god's-word-with-friends/.  There you'll find:
  • Lent For Everyone is a devotional featuring a daily reading from Matthew and inspirational words for reflection from renowned New Testament scholar N.T. Wright. 53 days
  • 40 Days of Lent chronologically traces Jesus’ last week on earth, through the New Testament gospel accounts. The seven Sundays are days of rest, according to tradition. 47 days
  • ReThink Life: 40 Day Devotional presents Scripture, key thoughts, and prayer to challenge you to “rethink” seven important areas in your life. 40 days
  • Hillsong: 40 Days of Revival reveals attributes from history’s greatest revivals — presence, prayer, purity, power, personal sacrifice, and praise — to help you know God and His ways. 40 days