Friday, October 24, 2014

Testimony for *Today*

My school bus and I are down at Ridgewater College in Hutchinson; I was asked if I could do this trip since they needed 4 buses to bring 10th graders down here for a sort of college/career day. I'll take advantage of this time to get some things done.

One thing I want to do is to communicate in the next hour or two with the folks who are a part of our local church. Yesterday our administrative assistant put together a tentative email and I'll send that out while I'm here. I hope it will be helpful. I hope it gets read (you can read it by clicking HERE). I hope this blogpost gets read too.

This Sunday at Crossroads some of our people will be sharing something called "Cardboard Testimonies."  If you go to THIS LINK you can learn more about what that is about. Those who have not yet made your own "Cardboard Testimony" are invited to make them before Sunday worship this week at Crossroads. Worship begins at 10 or 10:15 so maybe you'd like to make one at about 9:30. Call me or text me at 763-291-3499 or email me at steve@equalsharing.com if you have questions.

Once again I encourage you to take the time to listen to the messages and look at the resources provided by Igniter Ministries from the last three weeks if you missed them or if you could use a refresher. They are worth your time. You'll find them here.

In regard to "Cardboard Testimonies," most of the one's I've seen are about more or less "resolved" issues, a "before I knew Jesus" and "after." Sharing those wonderful healings is such an excellent thing. And giving glory to Jesus because of how he brought major change to lives is so sweet. If you have that sort of story, please share it!

But if I had the ear of our people today I'd share an encouragement for you who know Jesus but for whom issues and problems and temptations continue. You have a testimony to share too.

Let me explain using my own life as an example:

I can certainly see how the overall direction of my life has changed since the time when I surrendered to the will of God for me. The cardboard testimony I put together for Sunday celebrates the HUGE transformation I experienced in 1980--when God rescued me from being a "desperate hungry liar" and saved me for "34 years of energetic ministry in Jesus' name."

EVEN SO--there are temptations (directed by the Tempter himself) that continue to dog me, pursuing me and sometimes catching me in ways that are not good.

For example, I am sometimes tempted to be anxious. These anxieties come at me in different ways depending on the circumstances of my everyday life. I believe they come at me from the "outside" as it were. I suffer temptation. But even though I sometimes I fall away from the perfect trust God has for me, even though I sometimes fall into the SIN of anxiety, I still have a testimony that I can share -- and here it is:

I know where to turn and I know what to do--I know who to turn to in prayer and how to meditate on God's Word when those feelings of worry come. And, when I DO turn to Jesus in those moments or hours, when I go to prayer and to God's Word instead of resorting to coping skills of my own devising, I do find that victory in Christ that I am promised. I find it every day.

I could make a cardboard testimony, therefore, with the word "anxious" on one side, and the word "peace and trust in Jesus" on the other, even though the temptations, and the fall into the sin of worry, are not over and done with.

The devil is a defeated enemy, but, for now, he continues to pursue. But I will claim the promises if God BY FAITH and I will walk in HIS name even when I am under threat, even when the "fiery darts" of temptation and worry come my way. I have seen VICTORY when I do trust in Jesus, and I will claim that promise today.

By proclaiming the name of the One I trust in those moments of temptation, I have an ongoing testimony to the power of God in my life. Because I know Jesus, I know someone who can rescue me even now.

God working in your life TODAY to bring you through tests and into a new place of peace... for this day... for this moment... Receive it now.

www.equalsharing.com

Thursday, October 23, 2014

God Gives Strength

This past summer, when we (3 of our high school students and I) were at Leadership Quest we spent time in The Apostle Paul's Second Letter to Timothy. One theme of that letter (especially in chapter 4) is Paul's grief over having been abandoned by several of his dear friends and colleagues. At one point he says "only Luke is with me." (I'm writing this without looking at the Bible references so I can't cite the verses. Read 2nd Timothy and you'll see.)

In one way or another, we have experienced "abandonment." It's not good to blame anyone for leaving. The feelings are often the same, no matter what the reason for "leaving" (or being left) may be. After all, people leave for many reasons and we cannot judge "the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Only God and His Word can do that.

But no matter what the reasons may be, the feelings are still there--feelings that it difficult to do all God may be calling you and I to do.

The Apostle Paul experienced all of this. But, as it says in Second Timothy 4:17, after all deserted him, "The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it..." and he goes on to say, "the Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen"

When you or I feel abandoned, we don't blame or shame. We go to the Word of God, and to the Lord himself, for strength that never fails. And he will give all we need.

www.equalsharing.com

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Today, Tomorrow and Monday

The following email went out at 10AM Saturday.
--------------------
Crossroads Friends:

Good morning!

You're invited to a potluck meal after worship tomorrow (Oct. 19). Bring a dish or 2 to share if you can, but in any case plan to enjoy a meal tomorrow at about 11:30.

Here's tomorrow's plan:
9:00 AM Bible Study and Sunday School
10:00 Worship Music Begins
10:15 Order of Worship
+ Church Family Time
+ Message "Fellowship in the Spirit"
+ Extended Worship with Communion, Prayer, Blessing, Sharing
      (No small groups this week)
11:30 Potluck Meal

We've been very much blessed and encouraged by having Igniter Ministries with us during this month of Community Builders. I have personally gained a lot as I have re-listened to the messages that have been shared on Oct. 5 and 12. I'd encourage you to do the same -- each message is about 20 minutes long. We've posted them on our Community Builders webpage (click here) and at vimeo.com (click here).

Al and Becky Sorenson invite us to a time of prayer for Crossroads on Monday, Oct. 20. All are invited to come at about 7:00 PM to their home at 74375 200th St. Dassel.  You can stay for as much time as you are able to. If you have any questions or need directions, please speak with Allan or Becky tomorrow or call them at 320-275-4141 (home).

Today we're headed down to the Franklin Avenue mission in about an hour, meeting at church before 11:30 AM. Questions, or if you want to join us, contact Ron Olson, 612-269-7795.

Sincerely,

Pastor Steve T


Friday, October 17, 2014

Invitation

When Jesus said "follow me" he was inviting his disciples into a different kind of life. In later generations, when "disciples" turned into church goers, they started asking how their church life was going to fit into their lives.
(I wrote those sentences earlier this week.)

Do you know the grand invitation? Do you say yes to Jesus every chance you get? Are you willing to follow Him into something new? When you do, you will leave fear behind and walk into the freedom and joy of the One who knows and loves you best.

This month at Crossroads we're experiencing that invitation through Community Builders. I hope you will come along for the next two Sundays. Let me know if you'd like a preview of what's coming up on Oct. 19.

This coming Sunday we'll be meeting under the theme "Fellowship of the Spirit." There will be no small groups this week. Instead we'll share more time in worship, with opportunities for prayer, scripture reading, blessing and the proclamation of God's Word. And the Lord's Supper too.

Please come!

www.equalsharing.com


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Get Smart

Don Adams as Maxwell Smart
Jesus' disciples are God's agents, chosen and equipped to be instruments of blessing in particular local areas of a broken and sinful world. When we pray and spend time with the Word of God, we are in conversation with headquarters, receiving instruction, reporting needs, being strengthened to know that we are part of God's grand design.

O Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek; you will strengthen their heart. Psalm 10:17

This is the boldness we have in God, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John 5:14

Spend time with the Lord one-on-one today, dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, so you won't forget who you are.

www.equalsharing.com

Friday, October 10, 2014

What to Say to Spiritual Leaders

When I got up early this morning, I read this verse from the last part of the book of Colossians
"Say to Archippus, 'See that you complete the task that you have received in the Lord.'" Colossians 4:17
These words are directed to the people of the church at Colossae. The encouragement here, from the Apostle Paul, is that the people of the church would tell a particular spiritual leader to keep at the task that THE LORD HAS GIVEN him, so that he would not slack off or give up.

This is not a call for the people to tell their leader what THEY would want him to do, but, rather, that they push him to do what GOD has told him to do.

Are you encouraging your spiritual leaders in this way?

www.equalsharing.com

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Encourage One Another

On Sunday, in Dan's message, he said this:
"There are two main purposes for church, for us gathering together on a Sunday morning and at other times for us to talk and engage and relate. The first one is for me and for you.

"Does anyone in here have too much encouragement in their life? [pause]

"No? No one?

"So we need this. I need encouragement. I need love. I need intentionality, accountability, purpose. I think it's fair to say we need more of that than we're getting. We need more of it than we have a comprehension or expectancy for.

"I need those things. I need to belong. I need to be ministered to. And so do you."

(More of Dan's message can be found here -- the message begins about 29 minutes from the beginning of the recording.)
When we were at Leadership Quest this summer we learned a four part process of encouragement. I'll share it here.
A. Each of says what the others did well.

B. Each of us would say what we personally would have done differently ourselves -- pointing to our own performance.

C. What suggestions for improvement would each of us have for the others?

D. Finish with affirmations and encouragements.
The New Testament word for "encourage" is parakaleo meaning, literally, "to call to one's side." Para is like para in "parallel," and "kaleo" is the verb form of "kal" (in English spelled "call"), Other ways this word is used:
+ to call for, summon
+ to address, speak to,
+ to call to, call upon--which may be done in the way of exhortation, entreaty, comfort, instruction, etc.
+ to admonish, exhort
+ to beg, entreat, beseech
+ to strive to appease by entreaty
+ to console, to encourage and strengthen by consolation,
+ to comfort
+ to receive consolation, be comforted
+ to encourage, strengthen
+ to instruct, teach
As we spend time with one another let's do these things with love and care, loving one another as Christ has first loved us.  Let's help one another in every way.

www.equalsharing.com

Monday, October 6, 2014

Getting To Know You

This morning I filled out a "self-assessment" as a part of a "discernment process" that could lead to the eventual development of a Love INC affiliate in the Dassel-Cokato area. I'm hoping to move ahead on this "discernment process" during October -- especially since I'm freed up a bit from preaching responsibilities. Igniter Ministries is leading a month of "Community Builders" at Crossroads. That began yesterday.

The recording from Sunday is a bit different because the music began at 10:00 (15 minutes earlier than usual) and then our A/V assistant edited out the small group section of our time together.

Building community requires that we spend time getting to know each other. Some of that time is just "fun" time. It doesn't always have to be full of "purpose." But it does require that we get out of our normal circle of friends. You can't just stay behind closed doors and expect to make friends.

On Sunday Jon Thorson (my son) shared about how he had prayed for an opportunity to get to know some high school students in the area where he lives, and how God gave that chance in an unexpected way. He'd seen some of them near a parking lot, he joked with them as he left, but then, he got a phone call that caused him to go back again and, unexpectedly, he ended up playing hacky-sack with a few of the "kids." He said:
"I hung out with them for about 15 minutes and got to know them a little bit. I didn't get to share the gospel with them yet. I didn't get a chance to relate with them in a Christian way. But I got an "in" with them. I know they're there pretty much every day of the week at 3:00. I asked God for an opportunity and it came so surprisingly. I was so thankful that happened and it was a way I saw Jesus come through. He proved himself to me that day.
In what ways are you open to getting to know people that you don't know well? As a part of Crossroads' community builders month we each have an assignment: to spend some time with someone from church that we don't know very well yet. I'm praying that the people of our church will take a chance and ask someone (or a family) that they don't know well about getting together.
from the bulletin insert from Sunday Oct. 5
One way I get to know people who I don't ordinarily cross paths with is when I spend time on a few Friday mornings every year at the Cokato Area Food Shelf. I'm always asking those who come about what else they need and that usually leads to a conversation and sometimes to prayer or to meeting another practical need. I'm hoping to do that even more with Love INC if we can get that going in the years to come.

If you read this, I hope sometime you'll let me know! I want to get to know you too.

www.equalsharing.com

Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Time to Mourn

Habakkuk 1:2-4 
    O LORD, how long shall I cry,
    And You will not hear?
    Even cry out to You, "Violence!"
    And You will not save.
    Why do You show me iniquity,
    And cause me to see trouble?
    For plundering and violence are before me;
    There is strife, and contention arises.
    Therefore the law is powerless,
    And justice never goes forth.
    For the wicked surround the righteous;
    Therefore perverse judgment proceeds.
                                             (New King James Version)

(I read those verses and following meditation on the passage above early this morning. The words below were writtenn by someone I know almost nothing about, but what he says in this instance rings true.)

"The anguish in his voice is palpable. 'God, I've been crying out to You day and night, and still violence, perversity, and all these terrible things are happening in the land. How long will this evil last? How much longer must we endure this constant wickedness, this corruption? When are you going to act, God?' We have probably prayed similar prayers ourselves: 'We need You, God. How long, O Lord?'

"Ezekiel was a slightly later contemporary of Habakkuk. In Ezekiel 9:1-6 is a prophecy, a vision, that he saw while a captive in Babylon. The vision describes what God was doing in Judah and answers, at least in part, Habakkuk's question: 'Why have You not judged all this evil, God?' His reply in Ezekiel 9 is, 'I am going through the land, through My chosen people, and I am marking each one who sighs and cries over what is happening. I am searching out and seeing who is righteous, who has character, and whom I must destroy.'

"It is good that we mourn over all the corruption, wickedness, and abominations that are happening in this land. It tells God something about our heart and our character. He is seeking out those who are concerned, distressed, and repulsed by what is occurring around them, and He is setting them apart for deliverance. All the while, we must endure it, but it is a necessary wait, because it takes time for God to evaluate our character, to see what we will do over the long haul. As Jesus advises in Luke 21:19, 'In your patience possess your souls.'

"So we must ask ourselves, 'How do we react to what is happening in [this world]?' How do we react to sex and violence on television, movies, and magazines, in books, on billboards, and in just about all advertising and entertainment? How do we react to terrorism, to drug use, to abortion, to oppression? How do we react to our court system, which allows so much injustice to stand? How do we react to racial inequalities? Have we become numb and hardened to all of these things, or do we still sigh and cry over the depths of this nation's depravity?

"Habakkuk is certainly concerned, and so he asks God for answers, crying out, 'Save us!' God replies in Habakkuk 1:5-11, and His reply is very interesting."

www.equalsharing.com

Monday, September 29, 2014

"Killing My Sin" (by Pastor Bryan Lowe)

The following is a helpful post that I found a few moments ago on the website "Broken Believers.".

It not only applies to those who suffer from depression as does its author, Pastor Bryan Lowe.

This teaching applies to every believer in Jesus Christ.

Killing My Sin Before It Kills Me

We are for the most part anyway, eager to please God. We are Jesus’ people with the occasional brush with sin. But hey, who doesn’t? But that attitude must be questioned.
“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin.” 1 John 2:1
John hopes that his readers would make a choice— not to commit sin. After all, what soldier goes into battle with the intent of getting just a little wounded? Often we will sin just because it seems so inevitable, and we feel we can’t help ourselves. (But the reality is that we can.)

But the Holy Spirit now lives inside. Cooperation with Him is needed. Often we will work ourselves into a ‘no win scenario’ where we believe that sin rules. We can’t beat it, so we stop trying. That is common, and sad.

‘Passivity’ is defined as not participating readily or actively; inactive. When we are passive spiritually, we disengage ourselves from any effort of living holy and pure lives. Not being ‘hot’, but content to be lukewarm. At this point sin becomes, reluctantly, tolerated. “After all, I’m a sinner, what can I do?”

Mentally ill people are often passive. We are told that we have an uncontrolled illness which dictates that we act ‘irresponsible.’ Our depression often escalates and we feel victimized by it. My experience has taught me that there are three kinds of depression:
  • organic depression, or the ‘biochemistry’ of the disease,
  • Guilty depression, the kind that feels bad because of what we’ve done (or didn’t do),
  • reactionary depression, the type we feel when experiencing a loss, a loved one, or a job
Depression will almost always fall in these three categories. And passivity plays a part in all three. We  frequently feel victimized and ‘acted upon.’ When it comes to our discipleship we don’t act, we react. We are utterly convinced of the Bible— God’s truth, but we are so sporadic we can’t seem to get it to work for any length of time.

Yes, we are believers. And yes, we have issues. We’re waiting for a miracle, and hope we get a breakthrough soon.

At the base point of our lives, quite often, there is a passive attitude. Passivity aggravates our depression or mental illness. It deepens, spreading through our lives like a contagious illness. Our discipleship sputters and stalls. We no longer act on God’s Word, but we find ourselves fabricating a faith that makes allowances for our situation.

But we must ‘act the miracle.’ Everything God gives… everything… must be received by a convinced faith. We must be persuaded to give up our flawed ideas, and believe God for the real thing. I opened up this with 1 John 2:1. But there’s much more to this verse:

“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

I don’t want you to sin. Avoid sin. But even if you do— we have someone who will plead our case before God. He stands and argues our case. He loves us that much.

bry-signat (2)Take a look at Pastor Bryan Lowe's work here.  It might be helpful for you or for someone else who suffers. 

Also check out "Faith Way" on the "Mental Health Platform" here.

www.equalsharing.com

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday

Good evening friends. It's been awhile since I've done anything much online. I'm behind on keeping the church website up to date and it would be good if I would tend to that now, but I guess I'm needing a bit of down time. I was up very early this morning getting ready for this morning's time of worship (you can listen here) and then this afternoon we hosted an Eagle Scout Court of Honor for Matthew Dahlseng. Later Toni and I put our bikes on the rack on the back of our car, drove to Litchfield and rode around Lake Ripley. It was a beautiful day.

I continue to post on twitter on a regular basis. That's the best way to know what's up with me and often also with us at Crossroads on a day to day basis.

God's peace to you tonight.

www.equalsharing.com

Monday, September 22, 2014

Local Church Relationships: Holy or Casual?

In what way are the relationships that we have among us to be considered holy, specifically in local churches?

Or, on the other hand, in what ways are those relationships just the result of casual or intentional choices among various options that people make, that is, to associate with church "A" instead of church "B"?

Where in scripture can we find guidance about this?
-  -  -  -  -  -  - 

I wrote the questions above as a quick email to Igniter Ministries. They are planning on working with us on a "community building" month in October.

I'd like to hear what any of you think who are reading this.

Please comment or otherwise contact me and let me know.

Thanks.

www.equalsharing.com