Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Reset Your Place

Did Peter not understand? Is that why he rejected Jesus' plan?
Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Matthew 16:21-22
How often do we reject God's plan and even his promises because God is not doing things the way we would? Do we reject God simply because we do not understand? Oh, Lord God, deliver us from the temptation to think we can be in charge of you!  Let us take our place after you, following your one and only begotten Son Jesus, listening for your voice, and being willing to just follow and trust that YOU know best. Come, Holy Spirit, enlighten our minds with faith and trust, so we are not deceived by our desire to control you and your plans.

What was it that Jesus saw in Peter that caused him to say "Get behind me Satan!" (Mt 16:23)? Did Jesus recognize from eternity past the very attitude that the devil showed when he rebelled against God? Is MY so-called "need" to understand that dangerous? Oh, Lord, deliver me and set me right! Give me faith to simply follow Jesus, come what may, because I trust your promises! Send your Holy Spirit to fill and control me. Jesus, bring me back to my place, reset me to second, never pretending to be in the lead, only following you.

The words above have been given to me in preparation for preaching this coming Sunday, Sep. 30, at Crossroads Community Church.  This will be the third message in the "RESET" series. There are so many times in life when we really want to be in control when God says no, just trust me. Praying for submission to God, to Jesus, will bring both peace and power, no matter how difficult the hour.
I am not skilled to understand
What God hath willed, what God hath planned;
I only know that at His right hand
Is One Who is my Savior!
I take Him at His word indeed;
“Christ died for sinners”—this I read;
For in my heart I find a need
Of Him to be my Savior!
That He should leave His place on high
And come for sinful man to die,
You count it strange? So once did I,
Before I knew my Savior!
And oh, that He fulfilled may see
The travail of His soul in me,
And with His work contented be,
As I with my dear Savior!
Yea, living, dying, let me bring
My strength, my solace from this Spring;
That He Who lives to be my King
Once died to be my Savior!
(poem by Dora Greenwell -

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Reset Your Purpose

The Lord has been preparing me to preach today by reminding me, in a variety of ways, about how different the Christ-life is than the life of what we in this sin-filled world might call "normal."  Satan has tricked human beings into thinking of ourselves as the chance products of evolution, and as such, to live lives focused on "self."  But that has never been our real purpose.  I'm actually not much of a Bible scholar, but I do know that God created people to rule the earth and its creatures, to "subdue" and have dominion for others, not for self.  As Jesus said, those who are great will be servants.  That's who we are, servants who rule the earth for the good of all, not just for ourselves.

When I look out at the world through the eyes of someone who lives in a little town called Cokato I see many people who are living their original purpose, at least in part.  One way you can see this, I think, is at the time of death, when the family members of who have lived for others seem to be mobbed with well-wishers.  But many, on the other hand, who actually are living the new life, not living for themselves, are not well known.  Some are pretty much forgotten in this life.  But that doesn't really matter.  They get their applause from God.

Through what Jesus has done on the Cross, God resets our purpose for living.  We don't live anymore just for ourselves.  We don't live anymore just for our family or for those who love us back.  Instead Jesus tells us this "I will give you the keys of the kingdom."

Those words were spoken first of all to Peter, one of the original 12 disciples, the one who first came to know the truth about Jesus, that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the Living God."  When we come to know Jesus, he gives us those keys too.  Keys not only to our own home, but the keys to the huge, tremendous, unspeakably glorious kingdom of God.  The Bible in Matthew 16 speaks of keys that "bind" and "loose."  Like we were originally given authority over the earth, so God gives us authority once again to hold back the powers of darkness and to release or "let loose" the power of God.

When we forgive, when we love in Jesus' name, when we pray and do not give up, when we are generous beyond our family and friends--that's how we use those keys.  We say "NO" to despair and hopelessness.  We say "YES" to an open future with God.

That's our purpose as God's people.  I'll be sharing this in a message soon, first at the Cokato Manor (9:15 a.m.), then at Crossroads (10:15 a.m.).  Part of the message will be an update on one of our young missionaries, Andria Jasper.  You can learn more about her at Walking the Path.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Reset Your Identity

Jesus wants you.  Jesus demonstrates this as He calls ordinary people and remakes them into his partners, his co-laborers, his friends.  His call goes out far and wide.  There is no one rejected by our Lord.  He has already decided to make you new.

Even so, you can choose to reject his call.  You can turn away.  How sad it is when you who Jesus has redeemed by his own blood choose not to listen.  How tragic when you somehow make peace with rebellion.

Sadly, religion sometimes is the means by which people peacefully say no to God.  Saying yes to Jesus means saying no to false peace.  Jesus never leaves you just as you are.  He loves you in a way that will change you.  I hope you're not caught in a religious life that makes you satisfied with anything other than following the Lord's call and knowing yourself as beloved in His sight.

But even if you have said no to him before, God still wants you.  Jesus wants you today.  Jesus continues to stand at the door and knock.  He continues to stand by the seashore, saying "Come, follow me, I will make you "fishers of men."

Will you turn and follow?  Will you open your heart and let him remake you?  I am praying for you as you read this.  Respond today.  Say the Lord, "Yes, Lord, I will follow you.  I will be yours.  I will leave behind any false comfort.  I will follow you, Jesus, because you want me.  You desire me.  How precious I am in the sight of my God."


Jesus actually gave you a new identity long ago.  He did everything needed to remake you when he did for you on the cross.  At that time you were given a new name.  ... This video does a good job of sharing that truth...

Video from Jason Gray "Remind Me Who I Am" found at

Will you receive this new identity or will you turn away?  When you say yes to Jesus he will change you.  Immediately you full receive that new identity.  Immediately you will find that new you that he gained for you on the cross.

There will be a battle to fight.  The devil does not want you to believe you are beloved.  He will continually throw your sins in your face.  But those sins have been washed away.  Jesus will not remind you of them.  Instead, he will continue to remind you that you are his beloved, the one for whom he did everything, the one he chose to die for instead of lose.

When you receive his love, you will be changed.  The Holy Spirit will come in and begin a life-long transformative work.  But even from the beginning you will be brand new.  No need to prove anything to God.  He has already proved his love for you.

At the Crossroads

Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. (Jeremiah 6:16)
How do you make important decisions?  Do you even recognize the times when an important decision is called for?  Or do you just go on as you have in the past?  Do you notice the Crossroads God has put in your path?  Do you listen for God's voice?  Do you look for God's direction?  Are important decisions in your life made on your own, or in consultation with God's Word?

It's difficult to step away from the crowd.  Normally human beings follow other human beings.  But when God puts His Holy Spirit in us we are no longer content to just follow people.  Instead, we desire to follow God.  Sometimes this means we will disappoint other people.  And there is grief when we do that.  The Comforter, however, will comfort us, and He will bring other believers alongside of us so we will not be alone.

Come to the Crossroads.  Stop there.  Stand and look.  Look to see which way God is leading through his Ancient and Eternal Word.  Don't trust your feelings.  Look for the truly good way.  Then walk in it.  That's how we find real peace.  Peace that the crowd will never know.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Stage 2

As a church, Crossroads is entering stage 2 of our development.  Here is what Mike Breen and Steve Cockram say about this stage, comparing it to the discipleship pattern Jesus set for us in his ministry:
      Eventually Jesus' disciples realize they have no idea what they are doing.  They understand that following Jesus is going to shake up their lives.  The established Jewish [religious] leadership doesn't like Jesus, so they don't like his disciples either.  Things are not going the way the disciples expected.  The fun fades away and the pressure mounts.  The early enthusiasm of the disciples is disappearing fast.  Jesus isn't following the plan the way they envisioned it, and so they begin to question and doubt.  [Discipleship at this stage] is comprised of people with low enthusiasm, low confidence, low experience and low competence.  This phase is the most disheartening part of any experience and is often where people give up.
      It is also in this phase where most managers go wrong.  Rather than trying everything he could think of to change the situation or boost morale, Jesus the leader simply waited.  He knew that with all the false confidence and enthusiasm drained away, the disciples were ready to get down to business.  In this situation, Jesus becomes a coach.  Now he begins to share his vision more fully with the disciples.  Jesus withdraws with the disciples and begins the intensive talks about the big picture, eternal values, and putting their treasure in heaven.  Jesus [leadership at this stage] was high direction, high discussion, high example, and high accessibility.
(from Building a Discipling Culture Huddle Guide, page 46)

Fortunately, once we get through this stage, we will progress to Stage 3 where the "disciples are starting to get the hang of things," where enthusiasm is based on "real knowledge of what the task is," where we will be "generally... moving forward with the competence to get the job done."

None of us has done this before.  Let's allow Jesus to work on us through this process, trusting that He knows what He is doing.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

After the First Day

First day back on the school bus.  'Twas enjoyable!  I didn't mind the meal and mail delivery job either, but I'm glad I don't need to do that every day.  There is a lot more that needs to get done in connection with church and our life here in Cokato so being busy from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. (or a little after) would just be too much.  So we're thankful, my wife and I and my family, that Crossroads Community Church has "hired" me as their pastor.  I enjoy my "pastor-work" very much.

We are dependent in many ways on our Crossroads partners.  Our partners have agreed to pray, worship, read scripture, serve, relate with one another and give financially for this calendar year.  This is good for everyone, including for Toni and I and those who depend on us.  We praise God for you and want to pray for you.  God bless you all!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Confess or Repent

God is greater than my sin.  I, therefore, do not need to focus on it.  Instead, I focus on God and his grace, his mercy, his forgiveness, and his power to change my life.  When Christians are continually "confessing their sins," such as in worship, it's possible that we are turning away from God and instead focusing on ourselves.  (I wonder where the idea came from that we ought to do that?)

In worship we ought to help one another, and pray for one another, so we repent!  Instead of constantly confessing our sins to God in worship, can we let God teach us a new way?  This new way would be to be to not wait for worship, but, instead, to allow God to have constant access to our hearts and lives, to reset right away.

The truth is, God is the only one who can convict us of sin rightly.  And when God does that, whether in worship or at any other time, then you or I can turn to Jesus immediately, and, without hesitation or doubt, be reminded of his wonderful and eternal forgiveness.  And then, right away, I will ask Him to change me.  And He will!  What a glorious God we have!  God is greater than my sin!

Sometimes people may want to convict me of sin, but that is not their business.  The Holy Spirit may speak to me through other people, but even so, for confession and repentance to be good, the conviction will need to come to me straight from God.  Read the book of Job if you would like an example of that.  When God does speak to me, then I will repent.  And then God will receive me, fresh and new, as if I had never sinned at all.  God remembers my sin no more.

The devil also wants to condemn me and point out my sin, tempting me to take my spiritual eyes off the One who sets me free.  Begone, Satan!  You have no part in my life or in the life of anyone who turns to Jesus.  In Jesus' name, I will not grovel.  I will claim a new identity... a pure identity that is given to me by Jesus, when he died to take away the sins of the whole world and rose to give me new life.  Amen!

Beginning on September 16, we'll begin a series of messages at Crossroads that will RESET our identity, giving us new joy in Jesus.  Come and share what God can do!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sweet Correction

There is no sin, no error, no mistake that cannot be totally redeemed by God.  When something or someone is redeemed, that means there is greater good than there would have been before we sinned or fell into error.  Jesus' work on the Cross makes that possible.  He turns the dead lead of our sin to living gold.

When we know the greatness of God's compassion and the power of His forgiveness, we will never hesitate to admit our sin and seek God's correction.  And when we seek God's correction we will find it.  And there is nothing better than being corrected by God.  Sins that have been corrected by God shine with a light that cannot be extinguished.

Oh the glory of repentance!  Oh the glory of changing one's life to follow Jesus in every way!  How wonderful when God breathes his Holy Spirit into us, giving us a soft heart ready and willing to obey!

Those who habitually seek God's correction will be great men and women of God.  There is indeed greater good that can come through any fall when we're willing to get on our knees before God and change our ways.  That's how we become master students of our Lord.

If we have a hard time seeking God's correction, if you have a hard time exchanging your own ways for God's, check to see if you're really in connection with both the reality of your sin and the greater reality of God's work for us on the cross.  God has been so kind to you.  You have nothing to fear from admitting the truth to him now.

Perhaps listening to the message the Lord gave me last Sunday (Aug 26) based on John 8:2-11 could be of some help.  Go to  The message begins about a half hour into the worship hour you'll find recorded there.