Sunday, September 21, 2014

Just Being There

"Never underestimate the importance of simply being physically present in the place where God wants you. You may not be asked to perform some dramatic ministry, but simply being there is a ministry."

(Commentary on Nehemiah 11:1-2 by Warren W. Wiersbe - see below for the context)

Today at Crossroads we shared a message called "Faith for Building." We took a quick look at Nehemiah 7:4, where the faith and courage of Nehemiah and all those who took part in the rebuilding of the walls and gates of Jerusalem become evident, because, as it says, "The city was large and spacious, but there were few people in it, and the houses had not yet been rebuilt."

Later on, in Nehemiah 11:1-2, we hear how 1 out of every 10 of God's people were drafted and required to move to the city. They were honored for doing so.
"Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem. And the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem the holy city, while nine out of ten remained in the other towns. And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem."
Unless the Lord pushes me and us in a different direction before next Sunday, we'll look at these verses next week and apply them to our lives today.

There's a lot more to say about this, but there is something important about just being present when we gather together with other brothers and sisters in Christ.

It's a great encouragement. Don't forget.

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From Warren Wiersbe's commentary on Nehemiah 11:
     Now that the walls and gates of Jerusalem were restored, it was important that the Jews inhabit their capital city and make the population grow. For one thing, people were needed to protect the city; for they never knew when the enemy might decide to attack. It may have been safer for the people to live in the small outlying villages that were no threat to the Gentile society, but somebody had to take the risk and move into the big city.
     Also, if the people really loved God and their holy city, they would want to live there, if only as a witness to the skeptical Gentiles around them. After all, why rebuild the city if you don’t plan to live there? But most of all, God had brought the remnant back home because He had a special job for them to do; and to abandon the restored city was to obstruct the working out of God’s will through Israel.
     In other words, God needed people—live bodies—in the holy city. The Jews were asked to heed a call not unlike the one Paul wrote in Romans 12:1: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (NKJV).
     Never underestimate the importance of simply being physically present in the place where God wants you. You may not be asked to perform some dramatic ministry, but simply being there is a ministry. The men, women, and children who helped to populate the city of Jerusalem were serving God, their nation, and future generations by their step of faith.
     Some of these citizens volunteered willingly while others had to be “drafted” (Neh. 11:1–2). The people had promised to tithe their produce (10:37–38), so Nehemiah decided to tithe the people; and 10 percent were chosen by lot to move from the villages into Jerusalem. Since there were few residents in the city and since the housing situation was bad (7:4), it isn’t surprising that many of the Jews were unwilling to move. We wonder what would happen in the average local church if 10 percent of the congregation were asked to relocate in order to strengthen and extend the work of the Lord!
     We have grown accustomed to Nehemiah’s practice of listing the names of the people involved in his projects. In chapter 3, he told us who the people were who worked on the wall and what part of the wall they repaired. Chapter 7 lists the names of the people who returned with Zerubbabel, and chapter 8 records the names of the leaders involved in the “Bible conference” at the Water Gate. Chapter 10 contains the names of eighty-four men who set their seals to the dedication covenant. In listing these names, Nehemiah was giving evidence of his sincere appreciation for each individual who assisted in the work. It also reminds us that our Father sees and records what His children do as they serve Him. Even if others don’t recognize or appreciate your ministry, you can be sure that God knows all about it and will reward you accordingly.

Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). Be Determined. “Be” Commentary Series (127–130). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Good Thoughts

As I'm thinking in advance a bit about this Sunday's message that I've titled "Faith for Building." I'm considering the attitudes that are necessary in order to undertake good work in the Lord's name. There is a spiritual battle we engage whenever we take positive steps in our lives, or in the lives of others in our community. Joyce Meyer has a good word on this today.

On-Purpose Thinking  

by Joyce Meyer - posted September 20, 2014

But Jesus, knowing (seeing) their thoughts, said, Why do you think evil and harbor malice in your hearts?
—Matthew 9:4

It's amazing how quickly and completely our thoughts can change our moods. Negative thinking of any kind quickly steals my joy and causes a variety of bad moods. When we are negative and gloomy, other people don't enjoy being with us; when our thoughts are down, everything else goes down with them. Our moods, countenance, conversation, and even our body can begin to droop in a downward position. Hands hang down, shoulders slump, and we tend to look down instead of up. People who tend to be negative in their thoughts and conversations are usually unhappy and rarely content with anything for very long.

Even if something exciting does happen, they soon find something wrong with it. As soon as they see one thing wrong, they tend to fix their minds on it; any enjoyment they might have is blocked by concentrating on the one negative. They may occasionally experience momentary enthusiasm, but it quickly evaporates and gloom once again fills their entire demeanor. They probably do not realize that they could be happy if they would simply change the way they think. We must stop merely waiting for something good to happen and take action to ensure that something good will happen.

I am truly amazed when I consider the fact that we have the ability to make ourselves happy or sad by what we choose to think about. The Bible says we must be satisfied with the consequences of our words, whether they are good or evil (see Prov. 18:20).

Our words begin with our thoughts, so the same principle that applies to our mouths also applies to our minds. We need to be satisfied with the consequences of our thoughts because they hold the power of life and death. I would add that they hold the power of contentment and discontent, of joy and sadness.

Trust in Him

God has given us the ability to make choices about so many things in life, including our thoughts, and we [are] responsible to make those choices carefully. Trust Him to help you choose positive thoughts and to think on purpose.



From the book Trusting God Day by Day by Joyce Meyer. Copyright © 2012 by Joyce Meyer. Published by FaithWords. All rights reserved.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Faith for Rebuilding (2)

This last Sunday at Crossroads we were privileged to hear a message from the Lord that was spoken to us by Steve Basney. After a review Nehemiah's historical situation and the promises God had given and fulfilled as Jerusalem and the temple were being rebuilt, Steve compared their situation to ours at Crossroads:
"...Zerubbabel led the people to rebuild the temple, but some of the old timers remembered what the old temple, the temple of Solomon had been like. This new temple was quite small and modest by comparison. Solomon's temple had been fairly large, opulent, beautiful... and the old-timers just wept when they saw it. But it was God's provision for them. It was different, it was smaller, but the hand of God was in it.

"Here at Crossroads we've gone through a time of transition. Some of those who had been here at the founding of Crossroads have moved on to other places and we bless them and we're thankful for them. New people have begun to arise and take leadership in different areas. We're in transition. Who knows how it's all going to unfold, but we need to recognize that God is in it.

"Things are different. Things are going to look a little bit different and it's okay. Learn to life with something a little bit different. God is always on the move, he's got a plan, he's not going to leave us, he doesn't forsake us.

"He did not leave or forsake the people of Israel. He had plans for them..."
Just as the Lord did not leave or forsake the people of Israel, so he will not leave or forsake us.

Sometimes it's honestly hard to believe that a "rebuilding program" would be worth the trouble.
Rebuilding is expensive and difficult. Steve spoke of the "rubble" that was scattered all over the area that had once been the great city of Jerusalem.

In Nehemiah's day few people were living in the city. This was true of most cities until modern times. Unless the city was a wealthy trading center, most people would live in villages near their farmland. It's only in the twentieth century that this changed!

So why was Jerusalem important? For all those who had been exiled to Babylon, and for those who continued to live in the area under Babylonian and then Persian rule, Jerusalem was the city of God's promises and God's Word! The temple was there and great and wonderful promises had been attached to it. And the city itself--known as "Zion" and "The City of David"--God's promises encompassed the city too. (For example, see Jeremiah 33 and Zechariah 8).

Unless the people believed those promises the city of Jerusalem would be mostly irrelevant to the people's every day lives and there would be no real reason to rebuild the city. But, as Steve shared on Sunday, Nehemiah believed those promises!  He believed that things could be different--that things should be different in and for the city.

As Steve Basney put it:
"Where did Nehemiah get his faith that the walls of Jerusalem could be rebuilt? Where did he get the belief that something good could come out of all this judgment rubble. Nehemiah knew the Word of God. He knew the promises and prophecies. There had been a prophecy that the people of Judah would be restored.

"Even though it took a long time to make it happen -- there was 70 years between the time Jeremiah spoke it and the time that the first exiles came back -- and there was really another 100 years before Nehemiah actually came on the scene to rebuild the walls -- that's a long space of time -- Nehemiah knew the promises of God. He knew what God had spoken. "He said, 'You know what, I know this isn't God's best--what I'm hearing about what what I'm seeing--this cannot be God's best for us.'  God has a plan and Nehemiah had faith to believe things could be different."
Because he believed the promises, and because, after weeping and praying, Nehemiah came to believe that he had an opportunity (a "call" from God) to make a difference, he spoke with the king about the resources that would be necessary. He then traveled to Jerusalem, inspected the broken down walls and gates, and rallied the people, inspiring vision and teamwork against apathy and adversaries and division--and the stone walls were rebuilt--by hand--in just a matter of a few months.

On Sunday at Crossroads, toward end of his message*, Steve made an application of this to our personal lives. He said this:
"We need to have faith to believe that things can be different. We need to trust God for all areas and all aspects of our life. Why do we trust God? Because God is faithful. God is good. God is for us. He is not against us. And he is interested in every area and every aspect of your life.

"Often we have the faith to believe God for salvation to get to heaven. But sometimes it's like that's the extent of our faith. And it's good you have faith for that. That's the most important thing, right? ...

"But still, we are here in this life. We need to learn to trust God and walk in faith here in this life. We need to believe God for our finances. We need to believe God for peace in our homes. We need to believe God that we can take our city for Jesus. We need to learn to walk in faith in all areas and and aspects of our life. God is interested in it!

"God has given us exceedingly great and precious promises in His Word that we can stand on. He says in Second Corinthians chapter 3 that all the promises of God are "Yes and Amen to the glory of God." He gives a promise and what do we do? We say "Yes! Amen Lord! Let it come to pass! We stand upon God's Word. We speak God's Word. We believe God's Word even when all our circumstances may look very different."
How does this apply to your personal life? In what ways is God is calling you to step out in faith, praying and taking steps to rebuild? And in what ways is God calling us to do this here at Crossroads? Have we spent time in prayer? Have we believed God's promises? What steps of faith is God calling us to take together?

Please pray with me that we will clearly hear and see what God is calling us to do -- personally, and as a church.

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Steve's main message on Sunday was about being "Set Apart" for God. You can listen to that important part by clicking here (just over 16 minutes long).

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Helping Singles Prepare for Marriage

From Paul Anderson via my son Dan Thorson who says Paul is here writing about his (Paul's) favorite subject.  The "Karen" Paul mentions below is Paul's wife.

(originally on Paul's blog that you can access by clicking here)

Karen and I have worked with hundreds of young adults. None has ever claimed to have the gift of celibacy. Every single young adult we know is hoping to be married, and at least for many of the gals, the sooner the better. So how are singles to live as they anticipate that change in status?

TRUTHS TO EMBRACE:
  1. God is not mad at you. He is not punishing you for something you did as a teenager. He is not waiting for you to get it together. He has a plan for you, and it is not related to the way you have messed things up. We sometimes turn God into a monster, and we think He must be trying to teach us a lesson, but it is not clear what. If He has not made it obvious, don’t worry about it. Picture God as the perfect Father who knows how to show love and is exceedingly patient and kind. That is how God treats you.
  1. Delays are not denials. Waiting in the Bible is purposeful. While you wait, God works. He is doing something wonderful in you, though it may cause pain. Think David. He was not ready to take the throne at seventeen. After thirteen years, during which God schooled him through pain, he was prepared. He cried out, “How long…?” feeling forgotten and defeated. Read Psalm 13 if you sometimes feel that way. He felt ashamed and as if the enemy was winning. But he managed to close the psalm trusting God and affirming His love. If you are going through affliction, it is developing character, which can only make you a better mate. Maybe like David you are not quite ready (ouch!). That might hurt if you are thirty-five. Ask God, “Anything else I can do while I wait? Affirm to Him, “I know you are not taunting me.”
Try not to give up hope. Hopeful people are good looking. Sometimes God’s timetable defies understanding. It was that way for some well-known and highly blessed women, like Sarah, Rachel, Hannah and Elizabeth, but God was fulfilling His good plan in their lives and in their bodies. It is more about Him than about you. Upgrade your confidence in God’s sovereignty and His ability to make good on His promises.

SOME WORDS TO GUYS:
  1. Get ready financially. Get a good job and get out of debt. Learn generosity. Build testimonies of God’s provision. You are called to lead in marriage. Gals appreciate guys who have some clear direction in their lives.
  2. Get ready morally. Pornography kills commitment. It is relationship without responsibility. It will suck the confidence out of you. It will bring passivity rather than action. Do what you can to overcome this winnable war. Get help and walk in accountability.
  3. Get ready physically. Give your wife the gift of a strong and healthy body. Call it temple maintenance. It is spiritual to get physical.
  4. Be bold, even when it is hard and you are uncomfortable. You will need to take some risks. Look to mature mentors to help you. Rejection does not feel good, but it may happen on the road to fulfillment and success. You are going after something worth going after. Be aggressive, even when you feel like you can’t. “He who finds a wife find a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22).  Finding means looking. Avoid the paralysis that comes from fear. Let a fear of the Lord trump timidity. Don’t think that you are different from other guys. This is a difficult area for most men.
  5. Don’t rely on “a words from the Lord.” I’ve seen too many disappointed young men who relied on well-meaning prophecies or personal words. Because of the intensely personal nature of God-given relationships, our fear is sometimes factored into our ability to listen. Don’t convince yourself that God told you something without listening to wise mentors. I am thankful that my mentor caught me up short when I was living a contented single life. It led to marriage within nine months. Don’t say that God has not spoken to you yet about marriage. He already made it clear in His Word. That is enough to go after a wife.
SOME WORDS TO GALS:
  1. You are beautiful. When I spoke to a group of young adults at a camp last year, I showed them a clip from Lion King, who bought a lie that compromised his identity. I asked them to share a lie that might do the same for them. A girl said, “I am afraid I am not pretty enough to get married.” Satan was tampering with her God-appointed destiny, and in her weakness she bought the lie. The truth is that no woman is beautiful to everyone, but every woman is beautiful to someone. God made you and He made you well.
  2. Bitterness is not beautiful. Neither is a victim or a woman who feels entitled to be married. Character is the most important ingredient in a successful marriage. Be the kind of person that someone would want to be married to.
  3. Take advantage of the single life. Paul says it offers advantages marriage cannot give you, like single-minded devotion to the Lord and independence. Some of our children traveled the world before they got married. Do your best to have enjoy your life. Don’t settle in for substitute romance with novels or soaps. Make the most out of your life now. You will be glad that you did, because marriage that includes children will definitely limit your options.
  4. Don’t expect marriage to change him. If you are counting on it, don’t marry him. If he can’t convince you now, he won’t after you are living together.
Marriage is God-ordained, but is not the ultimate—Jesus is. Don’t put all your marbles in the marriage basket; put them in the Jesus basket. Then you will live successfully as a single or married person. There are countless lonely married people, just like there are lonely singles. Your life is found in God. Don’t expect your partner to meet needs that only God can. The more you pursue Him, the greater your joy whatever your station.

--

For another perspective see The (Single) Christian Life

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Faith for Rebuilding

We've been working through a series of messages based on the book of Nehemiah, a series that was originally conceived by a church network that no longer exists. At the same time our local church has been going through transitions, with some folks who have been consistently part of the church since its beginning in 2010 choosing to go elsewhere for worship etc. This impacts us in many ways: some of the things we have "assumed" (like that we'd have certain people on hand for leading youth or being in the worship band) are no longer the case. And the "offerings" that the church has depended on (to pay my salary, for example) have decreased year to date in 2014 in comparison with 2013. I have often wondered what Crossroads Community Church will look like after this year.

It seems that the Lord is choosing to put us into "rebuilding" phase. The signs are abundant. I personally have been energized for this new chapter as I have studied the book of Nehemiah, as I have listened to the messages that were put together by our one remaining church network partner, as I've been able to spend prayer time with our church board of directors, with youth leaders from the area, with our group of prayer warriors, the men's Tuesday night Bible study and our awesome high school JAM Wednesday night. Then there is the "Love INC" initiative that is attracting some interest in our DC area and ongoing Holy Spirit guided encounters and relationships that God blesses us (and me) with, and that allow us to be used to bless others. I could not list all the signs of God's "push" into rebuilding. There are far too many and there are many that I can't even see. This does not seem to be a time of retreating. It seems like a time for advancing further into the ways and plans of God.

Still, if we are being called to "rebuild" after we've suffered some setbacks as an organization and as a fellowship, "rebuilding" does not mean that the future will be the same as the past. The city walls rebuilt by Nehemiah we not exactly the same as they had been, and they were certainly different (smaller) than those of King Solomon's day. The people were different, the times were different, resources were not as abundant. (Of course, abundant resources doesn't necessarily mean things will be done in a good way. The Jerusalem of Solomon's day was destroyed because of unfaithfulness. We don't want that to happen. Smaller is not necessarily worse.)

Here's a personal example: I don't know how long pastors like me will be able to depend upon the local church for our middle-class sustenance. (I've seen this as a trend in the wider world, and perhaps later I'll take time to make a link to an article based on research.) In any case, the Lord been teaching me, over the past year or so, about the wisdom of "multiple elder-ship" (instead of "senior pastor-ing") as the Holy Spirit preferred way of local church leadership.In addition to that, my study of the book of Nehemiah has pointed out verses like this...:
...The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens on the people and took from them for their daily ration forty shekels of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people. But I did not do so, because of the fear of God. I also persevered in the work on this wall, and we acquired no land, and all my servants were gathered there for the work. Moreover, there were at my table 150 men, Jews and officials, besides those who came to us from the nations that were around us. (Nehemiah 5:14-19)
...verses that remind me of what the Apostle Paul said...
If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. (First Corinthians 9:11-12)
Here's the personal stuff:

Before I came on to serve as pastor of Crossroads, I was asked by the launch team what salary I would need to stay here in Cokato, and ever since then the church has provided that amount. The amount was not enough to allow me to provide health insurance for me and my wife, so I took on the regular school bus route in Sep. 2011. I've done that ever since too. But I wonder, in this "rebuilding" phase, whether things will stay the same. I wonder that for practical financial reasons (re: "church finances") and as I already mentioned, I wonder that because of the possible move to authentic "multiple elder-ship" and true and full Holy Spirit community sharing that we have studied in the book of Acts.

So this leads to the question that I perceive the Lord to be asking me. Am I willing to enter into this "rebuilding" with a mind and a heart that is like Nehemiah's or Paul's? As we come into this fall, when my "pastoral agreement" (i.e. "contact") is up for re-negotiation, am I going to look first at what the Lord is desiring for our fellowship and only secondly at my own financial and professional well being? Or am I going to cling to a pattern of life that may not be what the Lord wants for us in this season?

The question, in the end, is one of trust and faith. I say that I trust God. I know how faithful God has been in the past. I know the promises of God's Word. Will I trust God and be willing to do just as He says? Will we do that as a local church? Will we be willing to say, "Okay God, we will follow your plans, not what we are accustomed to, even when we are tempted by fear, even when we're tempted to retreat to the familiar."

I used my own personal, professional situation as an example. I'm not saying here that things will definitely change, and as we spend time together in study and prayer, we may be affirmed in some ways as to how things "are." My question is just whether we will be open to doing what God says, when we, together, discern what that is.

Do we have FAITH for rebuilding according to God's plan? Time will tell, so let's pray and study and remember the excellent promises of God. He will not fail us. We can trust in Him.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What It Means to Trust God

I have five minutes to jot a few thoughts down. God is teaching me, again, these days, about trusting Him. We at Crossroads have grieved as several key individuals and families have chosen to move on to other area churches. Some of us who remain at Crossroads have been tempted by discouragement, but instead of allowing us to sink, God has lifted us through his wonderful promises. We are learning, once again, what it means to trust God. And that will be the theme of our teaching at Crossroads for the next few weeks. Pray that we will trust Him for everything and that we will share a solid faith with all.

Here are a few of the wonderful promises of God. Let's just trust him.

Psalm 34:17-20 

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

1 Peter 5:7 

Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

1 Corinthians 10:13 

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Philippians 4:19 

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Romans 15:13 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

2 Corinthians 12:9 

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Psalm 91:1-16 

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day,

John 5:24 

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

Revelation 21:4 

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

2 Corinthians 4:8 

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;

Romans 12:2 

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 8:28

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Psalm 23:1-6 

A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Hebrews 4:15-16 

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Philippians 4:6-7 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Jeremiah 29:11 

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

James 4:7 

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Psalm 147:3

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

John 3:16 

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Psalm 55:22 

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

Hebrews 7:25

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Psalm 40:1-3 

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.

2 Corinthians 4:7-18 

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

Proverbs 30:5 

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

Psalm 130:1-2 

A Song of Ascents. Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

1 Peter 4:12

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

Isaiah 61:3 

To grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.

John 10:10 

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Isaiah 40:30-31 

Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Psalm 18:1-3 

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, the servant of the Lord, who addressed the words of this song to the Lord on the day when the Lord rescued him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said: I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.

Psalm 94:18-19 

When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.

Romans 8:1 

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 12:20 

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory;

Psalm 34:1-22 

Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away. I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together! I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.

Isaiah 46:10 

Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

Job 2:10 

But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

Psalm 121:1-8 

A Song of Ascents. I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.

Habakkuk 2:2-3 

And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

Job 1:21 

And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Psalm 57:10 

For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.

Job 11:18-19 

And you will feel secure, because there is hope; you will look around and take your rest in security. You will lie down, and none will make you afraid; many will court your favor.

2 Corinthians 1:8-11 

For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

Luke 22:44 

And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Mark 16:16 

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Matthew 6:24-34

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,

Exodus 14:13 

And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.

Isaiah 9:1 

But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

Exodus 6:9 

Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.
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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Not A Distraction

Too often we "church people" get so involved in our "church activities" that we don't PAY ATTENTION to the needs around us.

This isn't only true with "church people" of course, but "church people" should know better because we follow a Savior who says that when we help those in need, we are actually ministering to him. (Mt 25:13-46). Even worse, we can think of people's needs as a distraction or an interruption of more important work.

A couple hours ago as I was working on my message for tomorrow, I got a phone call from someone who has volunteered to help locate a missing person. Flyers needed to be printed. I didn't know much about the situation but I decided to go and print them.  Here's a version of the flyer:

I said "yes" to printing these especially today because I can see a connection between the passage I'm studying in advance of tomorrow (Nehemiah 5) and the need that came to me a few minutes ago.

I hope I will always see the needs of others as a part of God's call on my lives, and not simply an interruption. To paraphrase Marley's Ghost from A Christmas Carol:
“Mankind is my business. The common welfare is my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, are all my business. The dealings of my trade (in this case, the work I am doing to get ready for tomorrow's message) is but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!" 
A person might think that preparing to preach the Word is much more important than printing flyers, but it's my belief, as I have studied God's Word and prayed, that God often brings into our lives exactly what God desires that we do. That's what happened to Nehemiah in chapter 5 as people brought the needs and injustices of the poor to his attention. Nehemiah was called by God to step away from the important and holy business of building the wall around Jerusalem so that the poor would not be ignored.

I'm looking forward to sharing more about this tomorrow.  Join us tomorrow at Crossroads if you can, or listen the recording we hope to post afterward.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Spiritual Friendship

I encountered this via twitter this morning. How important are your spiritual friendships beyond family? Jesus' command to "love one another" is all about spiritual friendships that last.
"...I imagine Christian communities in which friendships are celebrated and honored—where it’s normal for families to live near or with single people; where it’s expected that celibate gay people would form significant attachments to other single people, families, and pastors; where it’s standard practice for friends to spend holidays together or share vacations; where it’s not out of the ordinary for friends to consider staying put, resisting the allure of constant mobility, for the sake of their friendships. I imagine a church where genuine love isn’t located exclusively or even primarily in marriage, but where marriage and friendship and other bonds of affection are all seen as different forms of the same love we all are called to pursue.

"By shifting our practice of friendship to a more committed, honored form of love, we can witness—above all—to a kingdom in which the ties between spiritual siblings are the strongest ties of all. Marriage, Jesus tells us, will be entirely transformed in the future, barely recognizable to those who know it in its present form (Matt. 22:30). Bonds of biology, likewise, are relativized in Jesus’ world (Mark 3:31–35). But the loves that unite Christians to each other across marital, racial, and familial lines are loves that will last. More than that, they are loves that witness that Christ’s love is available to all. Not everyone can be a parent or a spouse, but anyone and everyone can be a friend..."
This is from a longer article from Christianity Today that is previewed at http://spiritualfriendship.org/2014/08/29/til-death-do-us-part-and-why-thats-about-friendship-too/

Even as a married person, I long for spiritual friendships that are deep and significant, where prayers can be shared and where Romans 12:15 becomes a real part of life.  Where no one needs to weep or rejoice alone.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

True Stories Wanted

God's peace to all of you.

I'm studying in advance of this Sunday, August 31 --

As a part of our "ReBuild" series I'm planning a message that I've titled "NOT A DISTRACTION: Remembering the poor and oppressed." The title comes from the fact that many times, as literal or figurative building projects go on, that some would say that the complaints and needs of those who are in the worst conditions should be ignored or at least shuttled to the side so the "building" can go on. Or, if they don't say that, that's what is done.

Nehemiah chapter 5 gives a positive, good example of how such needs should be handled.  The books namesake listens to the complaints of the poor and oppressed. He doesn't ignore them. He allows the cries of the poor to affect him, he then "takes counsel with himself" (which I'm sure included prayer and reflection on the Word of God). He then confronts the leaders and officials of the people because they have been benefiting from a [mini] economic system that is said to have caused the common folks of Jerusalem to beg, go into debt and sell their children into slavery--to simply survive. 

In the case of the nobles and elders that Nehemiah confronts, they react in a very good way. "They were silent and could not find words to say." Nehemiah then instructs them further and warns them about what will happen if they do not listen--and they change their ways, returning their mortgaged lands and the children who had been sold into slavery.

(Nehemiah also sets a good example, not using his privileged position to enrich himself but instead using all he has to bless those who are in need.)

What poignant story or stories are you aware of that would drive home the point that this is not just ancient history but something that goes on today? The stories could be either negative examples (stories of exploitation) or positive ones (stories of those who confront the self-centered powers and/or set good examples in the face of need).

FYI - The early church, filled with the Holy Spirit, addressed these issues in Acts 2, 4 and 6... and in other ways as well.

Thank you.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Good Work Under God

The building that Crossroads Church meets in has a large insulated garage door in the area where we gather for worship. That large door has been helpful in some practical ways. It's also been fun to use in messages and sermons now and then.

One of the times we used that big garage door was as we very quickly illustrated the concept of "teamwork" last Sunday.  (This was part of our "Re:Build" series.)

Here are a few things that were said (for a recording go here).
"We've been doing a series here based on the book of Nehemiah over the past couple weeks and I want to do a little children's piece based on that -- but I'd like to turn your attention to this little piece in the bulletin where it talks about what we've done so far in that series.

"When we come to Jesus we get built up into a spiritual house -- into a place of protection for all who need protection. So today I'd like to invite and ask you to go home from here and read chapters 3 and 4 of Nehemiah... Spiritually, the teachings in Nehemiah are not about a city in the middle east. The teachings of Nehemiah are about the spiritual family of God which spans all denominations and all around the world--and about the work that's needed to keep that family of God protected from the evil one. We're going to do a little piece now that will apply to that.

"So, I'd like kids to come over here... "
We then opened the big garage on the south side of the building, and we handed out some colorful interlocking mat squares that the kids use in our children's area. They're about two feet wide and about 3/4 inch thick.

I wish I had a photo of the kids at work! Some took the task quite seriously, doing their best to interlock the squares. We only had a few minutes for our little "Time for Children" so we couldn't actually build the "wall" of floor mat squares... but we did discover that we needed more than just young children. We added older youth and then some adults to "seal up" the entrance, the gap in the wall of the building made when the garage door opened up.

As a dozen children and adults were doing their best to play along with my illustration, I said something like this:
"In the book of Nehemiah there are a lot of families that get involved in the building of the wall... Nehemiah inspects the wall and he sees that there are gaps...  The lesson of chapters 3 and 4 is that it takes a lot of folks. It takes the whole community as they build this wall. Spiritually what that means all of us who are people of God have a role to play. When part of that goes away all of a sudden there is a gap. But we do need to depend on the Lord because--Can we make this complete? Absolutely not! But God does give us all a role.

"That is the story of the book of Nehemiah. It's about building the wall around the city of Jerusalem, about taking our place in building the spiritual protection that is needed in the city of God."
And then we prayed:
"Father, we want to do what you want us to do. You know where the proper places are in the wall where each of us is to be working. Whether it's "over there, in that particular area" or over "here..." We want to release control to you, so that we're not the ones who are in charge of determining which piece of the wall, which part of your kingdom we are to be working in. We want to let you determine that. So come Holy Spirit and lead us. You need to lead us so we are doing the proper work at the proper time. In Jesus' name."
The rest of the worship hour was led by this summer's "YouthWorks" team. I plan to post more about their presentation on our "Re:Build" page later. 

The YouthWorks team is ONE example of ONE group that took responsibility for ONE part of the "spiritual building" that God is doing, both in the city they traveled to (Chicago's south side) and in the Dassel-Cokato area. There are many more parts, many more gaps to fill and gates to build. 

So let's submit the needs to God, asking him to lead each of us to the place he would have us build, and then doing just what He says.


www.equalsharing.com

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Love INC

The following email was sent out a few moments ago to our Crossroads email list.  One of the links below is for a video that explains what "LOVE INC" is all about.  In our Dassel-Cokato area we are blessed blessed with food shelves and thrift stores. Let's pray about a next step and a DC area "Love INC" affiliate!  Let me know if you're interested in looking into this alongside others in our community.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Love INC Digital Information Kit
From: "Crossroads Community Church"
Date: Wed, August 20, 2014 7:45 pm
To: Crossroads Community Church

Crossroads Friends -

Who would like to join me in looking into this?  (See below.)  I believe that our area would greatly benefit by having a Love Inc. affiliate in our community.  (I'm sending the same message out to the other churches in the DC area.)

Please reply or otherwise let me know.

Thank you.

Pastor Steve

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Love INC Digital Information Kit
From: "New Affiliate Development Team" <NewLoveINC@loveinc.org>
Date: Mon, July 14, 2014 6:50 pm
To: "Steve Thorson" <steve@equalsharing.com>
Dear Pastor Thorson,
Thank you for your interest in Love In the Name of Christ. For more than 30 years, Love INC has been mobilizing local churches to transform lives and communities In the Name of Christ.
There are approximately 150 Love INC affiliates meeting over 1 million needs each year through more than 10,000 churches, 9,200 community agencies, and 100,000 volunteers.
We have gone to a digital format of sending out our materials. Please follow the links below to access informational materials about the Love INC ministry. You can also learn more at our website, www.loveinc.org.
May God bless you as you seek to help meet needs In the Name of Christ in the Dassel-Cakato, Minnesota area!
Love In the Name of Christ - Love INC
PO Box 270305 | St. Paul, MN 55127
NewLoveINC@loveinc.org | www.loveinc.org

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love,
so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding,
in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ,
in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Colossians 2:2-3 (NIV) 
LINKS:
Love INC Video (Best viewed in Firefox or Google Chrome)
 




-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Love INC National: New Affiliate
From: Love INC National <info@loveinc.org>
Date: Mon, July 14, 2014 9:17 am
To: info@loveinc.org

This is an enquiry email via http://www.loveinc.org/ from:
Steve Thorson <steve@equalsharing.com>

I am interested in helping start a new Love Inc affiliate in my community. I serve as pastor of Crossroads Community Church in Cokato, MN. There are two Love Inc affiliates nearby, one based out of Delano, the other in Buffalo, MN. Neither of them serve our "Dassel-Cokato" community, roughly determined by the boundaries of the DC school district - http://www.dc.k12.mn.us/district/images/districtmap.jpg

I'd love to share more about this dream so please contact me by email or by phone - 763-291-3499 (cell).


------------------------------------------
This is sent from a central emailing system at Crossroads Community Church
You may reply to this email.
Clicking reply will reply to the one sending the original message.  If you would like to be taken off this email list please reply and let us know!
To contact the Crossroads office leave a message at 320-286-2100.
To contact Pastor Steve Thorson call 763-291-3499 or email steve@equalsharing.com
To contact others at Crossroads please check the Crossroads Contact webpage.
Our administrative assistant is normally at the church office from 9:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday (as of July 15, 2014).
Thank you.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Where's Your Focus?

One of my goals, actually a pretty important one, is to do my best to stay out of the way of other people's relationship with God.  I find my pattern in this as I read from First Corinthians chapters 1-4, where the Lord cautions us to avoid putting too much attention on spiritual "leaders" (a better term would be spiritual "servants").

Please take 15 minutes to read those chapters and to ask God to examine your attitudes... Are you focused on your relationship with God or are you distracted by the names and reputations of the "servants" (1 Cor 3:5) who the Lord assigns to each one of us.
Here are links to the chapters - clicking on each will open a new window.

First Corinthians
chapter 1 - chapter 2 - chapter 3 - chapter 4
Here are a few lines from chapter 3:

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building.

Our enemy and all spiritual forces of evil want all of us to take our attention off of the Lord.  So the devil tempts both those who are recognized as spiritual "leaders" (actually not leaders but servants of God) and others.
  • The devil tempts (1) the recognized spiritual leaders to put a lot of emphasis on themselves (being joyful or offended depending on people's response to them)
  • The devil also tempts (2) the rest of the people to spend too much time thinking about their relationships, whether good or difficult, with "pastors" and others who have spiritual leadership responsibilities in their churches, Bible study groups, prayer groups, etc. 
As this applies to most believers, when you focus too much on the successes or failings of leaders (or how easy or hard our relationship is going with them) you can, if you're not prayerfully careful, you can end up
  • isolating yourself spiritually or moving from one fellowship to another in a way that does not honor God (and thereby disobey the command of God that we "love one another" within the Christian fellowship)
  • avoiding close fellowships and staying only in large assemblies of believers where the relationships are less personal.
I'm not sure I did a good job of explaining this, so please take time to read the first four chapters of First Corinthians and ask God to examine you in regard to your attitudes and relationships with the "servants" of God in your life.  And please respond and let me know whether or not you think this reflection on God's Word is helpful--or not.  This has been perking in me for a long time

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