Sunday, October 28, 2012

Reformation Day

Who do you obey? Who is your leader? Those are important questions for us on this last Sunday of October, a day known as "Reformation Sunday," a few days before "Reformation Day."

There is nothing in the Bible about Reformation Day, since it was set in remembrance of a day 1500 years after the time of the Bible, the day in 1517 when Martin Luther posted his "95 theses" on the door of a church in Wittenberg Germany.

When he posted those theses (points for discussion and debate), Martin Luther rejected the idea that we ought to just be quiet and simply obey what church leaders say. Instead, he put his voice to work echoing the voice of Jesus, calling the church leaders to reject anything that was opposed to the Word of God.

My prayer is that the people of my church would do the same. I pray that each one would have the same tenacity and spunk that Martin Luther had, that they would not follow me or any other spiritual leader, but that they would each hear Jesus' voice and, when they think I or any other leaders are wrong, that they would speak out, either publicly, as Martin Luther did, or that they would go to their leader personally as Jesus outlines in Matthew 18:15: "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother."

Martin Luther didn't have the ability to speak personally with his spiritual leader. The Roman Catholic church was set up in such a way that there was only one leader, and he was far away in the city of Rome. Therefore Martin Luther dared to speak and write publicly. He did not just whisper his criticisms to others, be boldly spoke out! What a wonderful example! I am so thankful for him and for all who follow that courageous example, even in my local church.

It could be that you are hearing Jesus' voice more clearly than your pastor. It could be that your local or national spiritual leaders are wrong about something. God is so gracious that he does not immediately reject those leaders but instead speaks to them through other Christians. God often uses "ordinary" people like you to bring correction and admonition. Please do not remain silent when God speaks!

Could you be wrong about your criticism? Absolutely! But there should be no fear in being wrong. We have God's Written Word to help us. Bring your criticism, either publicly like Luther, or privately. And then let us sit down together with the Word of God to discern the truth. And let's be loving and patient with each other on the way.

That's what Reformation Day is all about.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Words with Friends

Tomorrow morning we're beginning the series of messages that I wrote about on Tuesday, though at that time I didn't mention the sermon series title: Words with Friends.  Since that time the focus shifted a bit, partly because on Wednesday evening I was privileged to hear part of what Ann Benson shared with our youth this week about Friendship.  We talked afterward and now she'll be sharing in part of the sermon tomorrow, using Bible verses that fit perfectly in with the Words with Friends theme.

Have you played "Words with Friends"?  It's an online crossword puzzle game.  It's a lot like Scrabble.  At right you'll see a picture of the game board.  It must be fun.  Five million people have played.

Real-life "words with friends" can be fun too.  God gave human beings the ability to use language and people have developed more ways to speak and write with words than I can even imagine.

God gave us the ability to use words so we wouldn't be so isolated, one from another.  Let's use our words carefully, but let's not clam up and refuse to talk with one another.  And then, when someone talks, take time to listen!

We'll share more about this tomorrow at Crossroads.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Revelation 3

My sister-in-law and her husband are here tonight, together with two of their grandchildren.  Paul and Becky have been missionaries in Brazil for many years and it's rare that we can be together.

In the course of our conversation Paul was talking about three of the churches that they have founded over the years, two of which are in lower income neighborhoods, and one in a more "middle class" sort of place.

The two churches in the less well-to-do communities are doing well.  The other one, actually the one Paul and Becky started first, is having a hard time because the people of the church are gone so often on weekends.  The people of the middle-class church appreciate the ministry but just don't have the same contagious Holy Spirit enthusiasm as the others do.  In the lower income neighborhoods the people just love to be together and are often inviting others to come along.  That doesn't happen as much in the middle class church. It seems he is describing a walk with Jesus that might be described as "lukewarm."

I am SO thankful for the MANY middle-class people that I know who DO have "fire in the belly" for the Lord!  I praise God for how many are desiring a closer walk with Jesus, and who find great joy in the Christian community.  Many are with us at Crossroads!  Thank you Jesus!

I know, however, that the temptations toward individualism and "family life" can get in the way of the work God is wanting to do among us.  That is particularly evident among people who can easily get away on the weekends and who have lots of options other than coming to the house of the Lord on Sundays and at other times.  None of us are immune to the temptation toward "lukewarm faith."

The men's Bible study at Morris Excavating is reading through the "letters to the churches" in Revelation.  As we consider the temperature of our own relationship with the Lord, take time to read what the Spirit says to each of these churches... in the ancient world... and today.  Go to;nasb95.

Jesus says: "I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent." (Revelation 3:18-19)

The gold is found in the Word of God. Buy it by spending time in it every day. Go to Bible study where you can encounter God's word in the company of others!  Adjust your life based on what God says to you.  Obey, don't resist.  The clean, white garments are found in relationship with Jesus alone.  Take time in prayer, confessing sin, seeking His will, receiving His grace and amazing joy. Thank you, Jesus, for providing just what we need.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Honesty and Reconciliation

I'm seeking today, in prayer, for the way God is calling me to go in preparation for this Sunday's message.  If you looked at the Crossroads website earlier, or if you were in church and picked up a bulletin, you'll see that we have a plan in place.  The next topic would be "Confession and Reconciliation."  But the fact is that we really didn't cover the topic of "Honesty," which was the announced topic for Oct. 21.  This isn't to say that Louis King was anything other than honest with us as he preached!  "Honest" may be Louis' middle name!  His message, which encompassed two main points," came straight from the heart of a man who is after God's heart.  There was nothing fake about it.  It was an example of honesty, not a message about honesty, so I believe God is calling us to address the topic, this week of Honesty and Reconciliation.  After all, what is confession if not being honest with others, and, of course, with myself.


*Louis' message from Oct. 21 can be found on our church website's "worship" page.  I found two main points in it: (1) Confessing Jesus and (2) Hearing God Speak.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Prayer for Today

Praying that as we come to worship today we will be changed by the Word of God.  Praying that any spirit of religion that would have us think we are "doing something good" when we worship would be taken away so we are naked and open hearted to what God desires to do to us.  You are the One, Father God, Jesus, Holy Spirit... YOU ARE THE ONE who does what is good.

The following was quoted today by Whitney McKendree Moore.

Christendom is largely constituted by this sense – its architecture, its ritual, its music, its adornment, its lighting (or lack of it), its tone, its atmosphere, its vestments and so forth. All are of the soul.... Spiritual death marks that realm, and while there may be intense emotions which make for resolves, "high" thoughts and desires, there is no genuine change in the nature of those concerned, and repeated doses of this must be taken to maintain any measure of soul-self-satisfaction which makes them feel good. All religions have this soulish feature in common, more or less, and it is here that the fatal blunder has been made by many religious people who contend that other religions, which are undoubtedly devout and sincere, should not be interfered with, but the good in them should be recognized and accepted. It is the confusing of religion with what the Bible means by being spiritual.

Religion can rise to high levels and sink to terrible depths. It is the same thing which does both. But that thing never rises above the human level; it never really reaches God. Religion can be the greatest enemy of God's true thought, because it is Satan's best deception. Asceticism is no more truly spiritual than aestheticism. There is no more a brief with God for rigors, denials, fastings, puritanic iciness, etc., as such, than for the opposite. Simplicity may give God a chance, but it is not necessarily spiritual. It may be a matter of taste....

How near to the truth in perception and interpretation can the mystical go! What wonderful things can the imagination see, even in the Bible! What thrills of awe, amazement, ecstasy, can be shot through an audience or congregation by a master soul! But it may all be a false world with no Divine and eternal issues. It may all go to make up this life here, and relieve it of its drabness, but it ends there. What an artificial world we live in! When the music is progressing and the romantic elements are in evidence – the dress and tinsel – and human personalities are parading, see how pride and rivalry assert themselves, and what a power of make believe enters the atmosphere! Yes, an artificial world....

The tragedy in this melodrama is that it is "real life" to so many. This soul-world is the devil's imitation. It is all false, wherever we may find it, whether associated with religion or not.... "The Christian Faith" embraced as a religion, a philosophy, or as a system of truth and a moral or ethical doctrine, may carry the temporary stimulus of a great ideal; but this will not result in the regeneration of the life, or the new birth of the spirit. There are multitudes of such "Christians" in the world today, but their spiritual effectiveness is nil.

By T. Austin-Sparks from: What is Man? - Chapter 5

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sunday and beyond

The following went out as an email a few moments ago.

Hello everyone.  God's peace to you today.

I'm looking forward to this coming Sunday.  We're beginning a new series of messages that we're calling "Words with Friends."  Louis King will be preaching and our worship & praise will be led by my sons, Dan and Jon Thorson, together with my soon-to-be daughter-in-law Brenna Birkholz.  We're planning on sharing the Lord's Supper together as well.

I've been asked to add my name to an ad that will be going in the local newspaper in regard to the marriage amendment.  If you would like to have your name added also, please let me know soon.  I called Tony Onnen a hour ago to check on what the deadline is.  My understanding is that the ad will run in the Enterprise Dispatch for two weeks.

As we stand on the truth of God we all need to be deep in prayer about how God is calling us to stand and live.  God is calling Christian families that are more or less together to come alongside those whose families are not.  God is calling us to do this without judging or condemning.  God is calling us to be steadfast, trustworthy friends. 

Please be in prayer about how we will live as a church and as individual families.  Pray and be ready to extend God's love to all whose living situation and family life is out-of-whack and/or painful.  God has often called His people as He is doing today, to serve and to sacrifice some comfort or personal "earthly" peace to reach out to make a difference in the lives of those who are sometimes barely hanging on. 

If you feel yourself being called by God to come alongside individuals and families that are in crisis or are living with instability, and if you do not know who God is calling you to pray for or serve specifically, please let me know or talk with other Crossroads friends.  Many of us know of those who are in such need.  Doing this together as friends at church will make it more possible to reach out without being overwhelmed.

As we hear God's call and obey it, we can rely on God's peace and on one another.  Together with Jesus, we will pierce the darkness with His Light.

Psalm 119:29-32
Keep me from deceitful ways;
    be gracious to me and teach me your law.
I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
    I have set my heart on your laws.
I hold fast to your statutes, Lord;
    do not let me be put to shame.
I run in the path of your commands,
    for you have broadened my understanding

Sincerely yours in Jesus,

Pastor Steve Thorson

Friday, October 12, 2012

Unexpected Evening

I returned a few minutes ago from the twin cities. I ended up at a healing conference where my sons and my future daughter-in-law and some of their friends were. They had been there last night and had seen several people healed right before their eyes. I've never seen what they described.  I wonder about it.  I thought it would be good to see for myself.

That wasn't my original plan. I thought I was going in for an evening at the "Ignite" evangelism conference but en route to the cities I talked to one of my sons. My sons have experience much more than I have in terms of healing ministry, and because there are so many that I love and care for that need healing I've longed to learn more.  Now that I'm home, I'm still "puzzling" and wondering about it all.  Not a lot to say right now.  Just wondering... and thankful for the healing power of God.

I'm jotting this here tonight before I go to bed just because I'm reflecting on my preaching task for Sunday morning.  We'll be looking at what Peter the Apostle went through when Jesus RESET his outlook on life, expanding it to include those who he had, in the past, written off or not even thought about. You can read the story for yourself in Acts 10 - you can read it here

How does God want to reset your point of view? Will you allow him to do so? Or will you stubbornly stay with what is familiar?

I'm still puzzling about what I heard and experienced at the healing conference, but I am open to the Lord's work. I will not confine God to my prejudices. I will stick with the scriptures and God's inspired Word as we find it in the Bible, but I will not cut out expressions of that faith that are new or that just "feel" awkward or too different. As I learn, I will study the scriptures, pray for faith and discernment and allow others to question and challenge me.  I invite you to challenge me -- but please let God challenge you too.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Marriage Amendment

There are two constitutional amendments on the ballot here in Minnesota now in 2012.  I am opposed to one and in favor of the other.  The ballot question I'll be voting "yes" on reads as follows: Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota.  I've been asked to add my name to an ad that will run in the Dassel-Cokato newspaper that reads: Please vote yes. Not voting is counted as a no vote.

My decision to vote for this amendment is based on God's creation. God has created and blessed this union of one man and one woman to be the one and only relationship that is potentially blessed with new human life. Marriage is unique in that respect. No other kind of relationship can ever result in the blessing of new life. Every new life has a man and a woman to thank for her or her physical existence. That is a scientific fact.

I will not stand by and be silent as some in our society desire to put an "equal sign" between this God-blessed union and other forms of sexual relationships. I see such danger here. It seems that this may be some sort of ultimate triumph for postmodernism over God's Truth. It represents the triumph of psychology and emotions over God created biology, the triumph of feelings over fact, of "conscience" over God-ordained morality.

I am under no illusions that we can create or maintain a "Godly" society here in this fallen world. Evil has always been at work among us and will continue to be among us until the end of time as we know it. Self-centered-ness has led to the practical elimination of "the children" and "family" as the reason couples join together and stay together even when things are hard. Through the innovation of easy no-fault divorce, the state has abdicated its former role in helping maintain the extended "womb" of biological family life, where children are raised and nurtured by those who conceived them. Children are no longer the "main thing" in marriage and that is tragic, especially for the kids. Mental illness and a pervasive sense of worthlessness and rootlessness seems to be taking over our lives. No, we are a LONG way from a "godly society," even with a small ambiguous "g."

Though the "state" may have been understood as an institution where people were taught to be wise, it does not do that any longer, at least in terms of family. In Minnesota, however, and in some other states, we at least still hold to God's design of one man and one woman as being essential for marriage. I'm voting "yes" because an amendment to the constitution will help Minnesota maintain that God-given definition for at least a few more years.

I'm not sure it will help at all, and I know I may be seen as heartless.  Besides, God's design for family seems to be doomed in society a whole. This "marriage amendment" may one thumb in the dike, a futile attempt to keep back a post-modern flood. But I can't imagine that doing nothing would be better, not when we hold God's plan as the standard for life.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Danger of Following Feelings

Christian leaders are called by God to follow God, NOT the opinions or feelings of people. When Christians leaders get caught up in following feelings, they unintentionally bind their followers in spiritual strongholds instead of setting them free to follow Jesus.

Here's another way to say that:

Christian leaders must allow their followers to feel bad sometimes. They must not just do what they are told to do by individuals, families or "the people." Their leader, that is the "Christian leader's leader" must be God and the Word of God. When they abdicate the difficult and often emotionally painful job they have been given, to lead instead of to just follow the people, the people are taught that their feelings are more important than God. This leads the people out of God's protection and into the devil's playground. Their souls are sold.

Let us pray that those who have been sold into bondage would be set free! The process of being set free is often painful, so let us pray that Jesus would come near to these dear ones so that their journey to freedom would not be too discouraging.

Remember the Exodus from bondage in Egypt and the temptation that the people fell into to soothe their feelings by making and worshiping a golden calf. Feelings can be such an idol today.