Saturday, June 29, 2013

When We're Different

"The Church needs us, whether it realizes it or not.  It is as broken people that we model our fallenness as the paradigm to intimacy with Jesus.  We often are the first to know that it has never been about our giftedness, but our intimacy.  We are a witness, a tangled but tangible reminder, of how God’s grace gives His power to the weak and despised" (2 Cor 12).
This quote is from someone I have never met, but someone who I deeply appreciate.  Pastor Bryan Lowe has helped me, from a distance, to navigate very hard times.

Because Pastor Bryan (1) has been open about his weakness, his brokenness and his sin, and because, at the same time, Bryan (2) is a brother in Christ who does not compromise the truth of God's Word and recognizes his responsibility in Christ to live in obedience to it when it is hard, and (3) because in some ways we are not alike, this fellow pastor has helped me immeasurably in relating with others who manage to survive in the midst of unrelenting pain that I have not experienced myself.

Honest sharing of brokenness and pain opens a sort of doorway to relationship in a way that is particularly fruitful.  It's no mistake that the Bible is so honest about the struggles and failures of its principle characters.  Though I give thanks every day for the God-given strengths and spiritual gifts God has given, those bright spots are not very effective in opening the door to others.  Some folks just won't be able to relate to me.  But when those strengths are coupled with the honest confession of weakness, when I confess that some things are just really painful and hard, chances are much better that people will be open to what I have to share.

I think this is the way forward in walking difficult paths with others when there are significant differences in our struggles.  Another acquaintance (Wesley Hill), who is dealing with a whole other set of issues, has said things that are similar to Pastor Bryan.  I so appreciate these brothers who have been open and who share their hearts and their minds.  Thank you so much.

I'm thankful to others, including people who are connected with our Crossroads Church in Cokato, who are likewise open with those they trust about their broken edges.  Everyone isn't called to public ministry.  Everyone isn't called to write and preach in ways that expose their soft underbellies to the world.  But the more open we can be, even with a small circle of trusted friends, the more we will open doors for the effective work of the Holy Spirit.

Let's not just proclaim our strengths.  Let's share those broken areas and rely ONLY on the grace, mercy and power of God.
"Each time he said, 'My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.' So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9–10)

I've been struggling about how to relate this to the current situation.  I've revised this blog post more than once before I posted it and now again (1:30 p.m.) after it has been published.

The following is an intro that I had originally published with the post above.


Tomorrow will be a great day at Crossroads.  We will be having two events that put the spotlight on brokenness--see and

Both events will help us reach out effectively to those who suffer.  

I hope that, as we do so, we will not just look at others like the religious person who said "God, I'm glad I'm not like that [person]."  To be reminded of this, see the story of the "Pharisee and the Publican."  Also see Psalm 22:24 - "God has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from him; But when he cried to Him for help, He heard."  

Too often we have despised and ridiculed, or ignored those who suffer.  It is so sad and it's something Christians need to repent of if we have been guilty of this unloving sin.

This comes up in a world where sexual morals are changing almost beyond recognition, it's good for us to consider how we might relate to those who experience struggles that are very different from our own.  This is particularly true now as so much is changing in our state and our nation in regard to same-sex marriage.

Some in the LGBT community will react strongly against what I shared.  I believe same-sex attraction is one of the many signs of "The Fall" and brokenness.  The LGBT community has a very different position. 

Like Martin Luther once said, if I am wrong I want to be corrected, "by scripture and plain reason."  I invite honest and open communication about this and all other issues.  That's one of the purposes of this blog.

What I've written began with a quote from someone whose challenge is different.  It's not same-sex attraction.  No matter what you think about that issue, I hope you'll read what I wrote as an attempt to be compassionate and truthful, and to take seriously what those who deal personally with certain painful issues have to say.

 Can this be a way forward in relating with those who have, to one degree or another, same-sex attractions?  Can this be a way for me to walk beside those who identify themselves as gay or lesbian or bisexual or transsexual or "questioning" (LGBTQ)? 

Let me know what you think.  

Let's share and pray about these things as we go ahead in the public world that is being reshaped in our time.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

God At Work

It was a full day.  Garage sale put on by the families of youth heading for the Urban Ventures Mission Trip.  Publicity for the "Taking Care" event on Sunday evening, including visiting many local businesses to make them aware.  And then, this evening, a surprise visit. 

It's one of those days where I rejoice to see God at work.  And I can't express how thankful I am for all God has done. 

Let's pray that EVERYONE will come to know the JOY of the Lord; that ALL will be able to see the TREASURES of God's grace and mercy that NEVER end.

Here's a quote from this morning's Bible reading:
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:2)
Yes, God does know what HE is doing.  Praise His name - JESUS!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Greedy Air

I turned on our home air conditioning an hour ago. 

Many people, all over the world, do not have air conditioning.  Air conditioning costs money.  Air conditioning adds to pollution. 

I suspect this is a sign of greed, because "greed" means consuming more than others when it's not necessary. 

Is this really different than taking a bigger piece of cake for myself when others don't have a chance?

And how does turning on the air conditioning relate to these verses?

"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived: neither... the greedy... will inherit the kingdom of God." First Corinthians 6:9-11

"I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of ... greed...—not even to eat with such a one." First Corinthians 5:11

Should I excuse myself?  Justify myself?  I could say I turned it on for my wife's sake, because she'll appreciate it when she gets home.  But is that honest?  I enjoy the comfort too.

And I enjoy our home, which is far larger than what we need.  Can I say, honestly, that it's not a sign of greed? 

Why do we consider greed to be different than other sins?  Can we talk about this?  Can we pray and ask for the Lord's direction and correction in EVERY area of our lives?  Can we do this together?

O Lord God, search my heart!  See if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way that is everlasting.  (Psalm 139)

Monday, June 24, 2013

What's Your I.D.?

Yesterday in worship we continued our summer series called "I.D - Exploring the Book of Colossians."  Here's the first page of a "handout" that we inserted in the bulletin.  Those who have been at Crossroads over the past few weeks will recognize some of the images & artwork. TO SEE THE OTHER PAGES or download a copy go to

Saturday, June 22, 2013

"Taking Care..."

The following went out this morning to our community churches and youth leaders.  For more, and a printer friendly poster, go to
Several people in our community missed the Wednesday June 5th event that was held at St. John's Education Center on “Taking Care of Our Selves and Others - Discussion on Grief, Depression and Suicide.”  We have arranged for a repeat of that same presentation with further opportunity for discussion and questions to be held Sunday evening, June 30 at 6:30 p.m. at Crossroads Community Church.  Please invite friends and family.  If possible, please announce at your church this coming Sunday.

Thank you to local Roman Catholic community for organizing the first event!  About 50 people from the Dassel-Cokato area came.  I'm not sure how many from our community will be able to come on June 30, though some of the families impacted by recent tragedies plan to be there. 

The presenters will be the same as last time - Amy Brustuen of Meeker County Social Services and Beth Peterson of Prairie's Edge Counseling Center.

For more about the last event go to

Please call me if anything here is unclear or if you have any questions.  Thanks.
Pastor Steve Thorson

Friday, June 21, 2013

Jesus is All You Need

A few weeks ago I found this picture.

I wonder if they were able to move it.

They sure are working hard!

Can you relate?  Does your life feel like this?

Come to Jesus!  Get to know him!

Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Join yourself to me and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.  You will find rest for your souls.  For your partnership with me will be well fitted and easy, and my burden will be light."

Jesus is the best.  He is all you need.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Exodus International Apology

When I was over at Snap Fitness a few moments ago I heard on the news that Alan Chambers, the director of "Exodus International" had apologized to the "members of the LGBTQ community."

When I got home, I read the apology.  You can read it at

I don't know know Alan Chambers, nor do I know much about his organization.  I don't know if the changes at Exodus International are completely (or even generally) going in the right direction because I don't know much about where he and his organization started from.*  (This is not a subject that I am an expert in, though I have done extensive study on the scriptural and theological issues connected with sexuality in general.)
I can, however, completely agree with parts of what he writes.  Christians have often acted in hateful ways to people with same sex attraction.  I hope we can all repent of that.  Those of us who don't experience same sex attraction in the very center of who we "are" have a very hard time relating with those who do.  I've written some about this before.**  But even when it is hard, we need to always act first with love.

At the same time, I was glad to see that Alan Chambers has not reversed course in every way.  He writes:  

I cannot apologize for my deeply held biblical beliefs about the boundaries I see in scripture surrounding sex, but I will exercise my beliefs with great care and respect for those who do not share them.  I cannot apologize for my beliefs about marriage. But I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek. My beliefs about these things will never again interfere with God’s command to love my neighbor as I love myself. 

I'm not sure that what Alan Chambers says about stopping the "fight" against what many of us see as the dangerous direction that activists are pushing the church and society in regard to "gay rights" is a good idea.  But I am grateful that he has not surrendered the clear message of scripture about sexuality and marriage, and I'm thankful that the love of Jesus is right in the center. 

Please pray that we will all maintain truthfulness and act with love--both together--in all things.

*I've met and have communicated some with a formerly allied group called "Outpost" and am looking for a time to have an in depth conversation with them.  I know there have been stresses and strains in that former alliance.  I know that Outpost is no longer part of "Exodus International."

**In regard to homosexuality, I've been attracted to the testimony of Wesley Hill and his book Washed and Waiting.  You can read about it at "When the Road Is Long."

Note as of 6:00 p.m. - As I was working in the kitchen I listened to the opening address that Alan Chambers gave yesterday at the 38th annual "Exodus Freedom Conference."  Here's the link  I don't know how long that video will continue to be available, so if you can, watch it soon.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Note From the Campground

I’m writing this piece [Monday evening] at a campground in southern Minnesota. Toni and I came down here for a two day get away. We did a little biking and have set up our tent and now, at 8:30, I’m taking a little time to write something that I’ll most likely post on my blog tomorrow.*

Many times during the day today I’ve thought about what a luxury it is to be able to get away like this. Though it’s always possible to compare my life (our life) with those who are better off, the truth is that we are so very privileged, so very bourgeoisie. It all comes from how pastors have been well “kept,” well-fed, and, in many ways, tamed. We have a car that runs well (in fact, we have 2 plus an old van), enough money for gas and the $50 we spent for the 2 night campground reservation, and we’re able to get away for this little vacation. And, besides all that, Toni and I enjoy spending time together. There isn’t much stress. It’s really nice.

As I sit here, and as I’ve been driving, I’ve thought about the many people Toni and I know who for many reasons just could never have time like this. I think of particular people whose lives are troubled in various ways or who have huge responsibilities that don’t let them get away like this. And, of course, the poor. What can I do? One thing I can do is to pray. To pray fervently for them and then to be open to those times when the Lord calls me to be directly involved in their lives.

Well, Toni has started the campfire, so I’m going to put this away now. God bless you all.
* Now it's Wednesday at about 4:30.  Toni and I are home after a truly excellent time away.  We camped at Forestville State Park in southeastern MN where there are almost NO mosquitoes!  We left home on Monday morning, stopped to see my parents in Minneapolis and then again in Mendota where we did some biking along the Big Rivers trail, and then drove past Rochester to Forestville park where we explored what remains of a little town by the same name.  On Tuesday we spent some time in Harmony while waiting for a rain shower to end, biked a bit there but then went to Lanesboro where we had a very sweet time biking a piece of the Root River trail.  (We didn't work too hard.)  Today we hiked a bit in the Forestville park before heading home.  So wonderful to get away.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Jesus is the Best

This is one of those days when I'd just as soon drive truck for a living.  There are days (and this is one of them) when what I have done in leading worship and preaching was not up to what I hope for.  I'm okay, and I don't want anyone to think I'm looking for people to say "It wasn't that bad," and I'm not saying that there was nothing of value in what the Lord was doing.  It's just that today it was harder work than it is sometimes.  It was long, I said too many things, and I'm sure some of the people were lost along the way.

Strangely, one of the reasons it's "okay," maybe, is that when I don't "shine" in my own abilities, perhaps the focus can go more on Jesus.  That's what I hope for anyway.  Jesus is the best, not me.

Here's the text from today's worship. Beginning with verse 21 we hear Paul speak about how we human beings have been "enemies in our minds" because of our evil behavior.  One of the things I tried to share today was the fact that because of what Jesus has done, we really aren't enemies.  Jesus, as you see from what is written here, has done everything necessary to bring us back into friendship with Him.  That's true even when we misbehave, and even when we are less then our best.

Take these words from God's Word and let them permeate your soul. And keep learning Colossians 1:1-20 by heart.

Colossians 1:13-23

    13 God the Father has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
    15 He, that is, the Son, Jesus Christ…is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
    21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Call to Prayer

The following went out as an email from Crossroads a few moments ago.  Please join us in prayer.

Crossroads Friends -

This is a special call to prayer on behalf of the families and friends of those who are in a special season of grief and spiritual warfare (see Ephesians 6 quote below). 

I am scheduled to be at Vacation Bible School to lead games tonight but I'm doing my best to see if the rest of the game team can take my leadership role so that I can be at Crossroads for our regular 6:30 PM Tuesday prayer time. 

This is a critical time for certain families and their friends and it would be good for us to raise our hearts to the Lord in prayer together on their behalf.

Please come to Crossroads tonight if you can at 6:30.  If you cannot do that please pause during the 6:30-7:15 time period to put on the armor of God.

Sincerely yours, Pastor Steve Thorson

Ephesians 6:10–20 (NIV84)
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Crossroads Summer

Here's a quick list of what the Lord is giving us at Crossroads this summer! - details on our church website.

Sunday (June 9)
- 8 AM Bible Study
- 9 AM Worship led by "New Wine" group from Cloquet
- 10:30 Worship at Cokato Manor
- 6 PM Vacation Bible School

Monday (June 10)
- 6 PM Vacation Bible School
- 7 PM Crossroads Board of Directors meeting
- 7 PM Holy Spirit Group at Cokato Lake RV Park

VBS continues every evening through Thursday.
Prayer Ministry every Tuesday evening at 6:30 PM
Saturday, June 15, True Identity Seminar in Fridley
Saturday, June 15, Franklin Avenue Mission
Tuesday, June 25, "My Hope" rally in Sauk Rapids
(info on church website announcement page on all of these)

Upcoming Sundays
+ June 16 AND June 23
   8 AM Bible Study
   9 AM Worship (Colossians "I.D." Series)
   10:30 Worship at Cokato Manor
+ June 30
   8 AM Bible Study
   9 AM Worship with Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge
   10:30 Worship at Cokato Manor

+ July 7 - Toni and I will be out of town
   8 AM Bible Study
   9 AM Worship led by Monday Night Holy Spirit Group
   7 PM Community Worship at New Life Assembly
Monday, July 8 - 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World begins
+ July 14
   8 AM Bible Study
   9 AM Worship (Colossians "I.D." Series)
   7 PM Community Worship hosted at Stockholm Lutheran
Saturday, July 20, Franklin Avenue Mission 
+ July 21 - Toni and I will be out of town
   8 AM Bible Study
   9 AM Worship with message by Steve Basney
   YOUTH "URBAN VENTURES" Mission Trip begins
   7 PM Robin Mark Praise & Worship Event
   7 PM Community Worship at Albion Free
+ July 28
   8 AM Bible Study
   9 AM Worship (Colossians "I.D." Series)
              with music & testimony by East Coast "Captive Free" Team
   7 PM Community Worship hosted at Evangelical Lutheran

+ August 4
   8 AM Bible Study
   9 AM Worship (Colossians "I.D." Series)
   7 PM Community Worship at Crossroads
August 4-10 High School Leadership Quest
+ August 11
   8 AM Bible Study
   9 AM Worship (Colossians "I.D." Series)
   7 PM Community Worship at Peterson Park
+ Monday, July 12
         Corn Carnival Parade (depending on interest)
         Rachel Kurtz concert following the parade
+ August 18 & 25
   8 AM Bible Study
   9 AM Worship (Colossians "I.D." Series)
              with message by missionary Andria Jasper
              on either Aug. 18 or 25

Friday, June 7, 2013

Things To Do

A REPEAT OF THE EVENT MENTIONED BELOW will be held at Crossroads Community Church on Sunday evening, June 30, 6:30 PM. Please invite friends!  for more about the June 30 event go to "Taking Care..."

Just a quick note before I resume the various things I've been up to since getting up this morning.  (First day without bus driving! Still got up at about the same time.)  There's a long list of "things to do" that I've been putting up on the fridge white board and a significant number of immediate prayer concerns sitting in my brain.

On Wednesday evening about 50 people from the Dassel-Cokato area got together to hear a presentation from representatives of Meeker County Social Services and Prairie's Edge Counseling Center.  The event was organized by the local Roman Catholic community and was entitled: “Taking Care of Our Selves and Others: Discussion on Grief, Depression and Suicide."

The first slide I remember from the presentation was like the one above.  The normal brain (at right) is a flurry of activity.  The depressed brain, at left, is darker, including what is known as the "frontal lobe," the part of the brain that is involved in decision making.

When there is less activity in that part of brain, it's more difficult for a person to choose between good and bad actions.  When we are depressed, it become physically more difficult for our brains to make good decisions.  Out-of-control pleasure seeking or destructive behaviors can result.

When we are depressed, it's hard for us to keep going with our lists of things to do.  Even praying becomes difficult.

I'm in the process of contacting the presenters from Wednesday evening's gathering to see if we can have a follow-up event so more people can learn about these things.  That's one of my "things to do" today.  See "Taking Care..." for more.

If you or a loved one is having a hard time, please don't try to handle things alone!  If things are really desperate, just call 911.  If you're just looking for advice about which way to turn, don't hesitate to call (leave a message) or email me.  I'll help you find the help you need.  763-291-3499

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Learning By Heart

The Lord is speaking powerfully to us. Will we listen? Will we learn?

One of the best ways to learn and listen to the Lord is to learn scriptures by heart, and the Lord is inviting us to learn the following this week. It will be a challenge. I'm starting to learn this by heart by using the following guide.  It helps to read it out loud.  Go to to see what is missing...

C_l_ss__ns 1:1–20 (NIV84)

1 P__l,   _n   _p_stl_   _f   Chr_st   J_s_s   by   th_   w_ll   _f   G_d,
_nd   T_m_thy   __r   br_th_r,  

2 T_   th_   h_ly   _nd   f__thf_l   brethren   _n   Chr_st   _t   C_l_ss__:  
Gr_c_   _nd   p__c_   t_   y__   fr_m   G_d   __r   F_th_r.  

3 W_   _lw_ys   th_nk   G_d,   th_   F_th_r   _f   __r   L_rd   J_s_s   Chr_st,   wh_n   w_   pr_y   f_r   y__,  

4 b_c__s_   w_   h_v_   h__rd   _f   y__r   f__th   _n   Chr_st   J_s_s   _nd   _f   th_   l_v_   y__   h_v_   f_r   _ll   th_   s__nts—  

5 th_   f__th   _nd   l_v_   th_t   spr_ng   fr_m   th_   h_p_   th_t   _s   st_r_d   _p   f_r   y__   _n   h__v_n   _nd   th_t   y__   h_v_   _lr__dy   h__rd   _b__t   _n   th_   w_rd   _f   tr_th,   th_   g_sp_l 6 th_t   h_s   c_m_   t_   y__.  

_ll   _v_r   th_   w_rld   th_s   g_sp_l   _s   b__r_ng   fr__t   _nd   gr_w_ng,   j_st   _s   _t   h_s   b__n   d__ng   _m_ng   y__   s_nc_   th_   d_y   y__   h__rd   _t   _nd   _nd_rst__d   G_d’s   gr_c_   _n   _ll   _ts   tr_th.  

7 Y__   l__rn_d   _t   fr_m   _p_phr_s,   __r   d__r   f_ll_w   s_rv_nt,   wh_   _s   _   f__thf_l   m_n_st_r   _f   Chr_st   _n   __r   b_h_lf,   8 _nd   wh_   _ls_   t_ld   _s   _f   y__r   l_v_   _n   th_   Sp_r_t.  

9 F_r   th_s   r__s_n,   s_nc_   th_   d_y   w_   h__rd   _b__t   y__,   w_   h_v_   n_t   st_pp_d   pr_y_ng   f_r   y__   _nd   _sk_ng   G_d   t_   f_ll   y__   w_th   th_   kn_wl_dg_   _f   h_s   w_ll   thr__gh   _ll   sp_r_t__l   w_sd_m   _nd   _nd_rst_nd_ng.  

10 _nd   w_   pr_y   th_s   _n   _rd_r   th_t   y__   m_y   l_v_   _   l_f_   w_rthy   _f   th_   L_rd   _nd   m_y   pl__s_   h_m   _n   _v_ry   w_y:   b__r_ng   fr__t   _n   _v_ry   g__d   w_rk,   gr_w_ng   _n   th_   kn_wl_dg_   _f   G_d,   11 b__ng   str_ngth_n_d   w_th   _ll   p_w_r   _cc_rd_ng   t_   h_s   gl_r___s   m_ght   s_   th_t   y__   m_y   h_v_   gr__t   _nd_r_nc_   _nd   p_t__nc_,   _nd   j_yf_lly   12 g_v_ng   th_nks   t_   th_   F_th_r,   wh_   h_s   q__l_f__d   y__   t_   sh_r_   _n   th_   _nh_r_t_nc_   _f   th_   s__nts   _n   th_   k_ngd_m   _f   l_ght.  

13 F_r   h_   h_s   r_sc__d   _s   fr_m   th_   d_m_n__n   _f   d_rkn_ss   _nd   br__ght   _s   _nt_   th_   k_ngd_m   _f   th_   S_n   h_   l_v_s,   14 _n   wh_m   w_   h_v_   r_d_mpt__n,   th_   f_rg_v_n_ss   _f   s_ns.  

15 H_   _s   th_   _m_g_   _f   th_   _nv_s_bl_   G_d,   th_   f_rstb_rn   _v_r   _ll   cr__t__n.   16 F_r   by   h_m   _ll   th_ngs   w_r_   cr__t_d:   th_ngs   _n   h__v_n   _nd   _n   __rth,   v_s_bl_   _nd   _nv_s_bl_,   wh_th_r   thr_n_s   _r   p_w_rs   _r   r_l_rs   _r   __th_r_t__s;   _ll   th_ngs   w_r_   cr__t_d   by   h_m   _nd   f_r   h_m.   17 H_   _s   b_f_r_   _ll   th_ngs,   _nd   _n   h_m   _ll   th_ngs   h_ld   t_g_th_r.   18 _nd   h_   _s   th_   h__d   _f   th_   b_dy,   th_   ch_rch;   h_   _s   th_   b_g_nn_ng   _nd   th_   f_rstb_rn   fr_m   _m_ng   th_   d__d,   s_   th_t   _n   _v_ryth_ng   h_   m_ght   h_v_   th_   s_pr_m_cy.  

19 F_r   G_d   w_s   pl__s_d   t_   h_v_   _ll   h_s   f_lln_ss   dw_ll   _n   h_m,   20 _nd   thr__gh   h_m   t_   r_c_nc_l_   t_   h_ms_lf   _ll   th_ngs,   wh_th_r   th_ngs   _n   __rth   _r   th_ngs   _n   h__v_n,   by   m_k_ng   p__c_   thr__gh   h_s   bl__d,   sh_d   _n   th_   cr_ss. 

[Use it together with your Bible to see how much you can guess at. After you have gotten good at reading it without the vowels (out loud), copy the above to a word processor and begin to "find and replace" other common letters... replace, for example, every "s" with an asterisk ("*"). Then do the same with "t" and "n" etc. You'll be amazed how quickly you can learn a long passage by heart... don't worry about getting it perfect though. Just get as much of it in your heart and head as you can.]

Does that seem challenging?  Here's part of an early copy of Paul's letter. (To learn more go to  Like this sample, the original Greek New Testament was written in all capital letters, without spaces, punctuation, accents or diacritical marks.  It was meant for reading aloud!

Saturday, June 1, 2013


It's a beautiful sunshiny day here in Cokato.  I'll try again today to get the rest of my garden planted.  I tried yesterday but it was still too muddy out there for fruitful work.

Sunshine isn't just here to make me happy.  Sunshine is one of the ingredients necessary for life.  Whenever we get focused on our feelings, whether it's our happiness or sadness, God would turn us around and say, "It's not about you."

God loves life.  God makes human beings to be the earth's masters and caretakers.  We have a responsibility that goes beyond ourselves as individuals.  Whenever we begin to say that God intends anything for mere pleasure, or any human emotion such as joy or love (as an emotion), God would say "Watch out.  Be careful that you don't become self-centered."

The jucara is the dominant palm tree in the Brazilian Atlantic forest. Its seeds are dispersed mostly by birds.
As an example of this, see the article from National Public Radio about Big Mouthed Toucans.  According to the article, human beings have built more and more homes in the Brazilian rainforest, and, seeking pleasure in their living situations, humans have sinfully broken the cycle of life there.

The same has happened around the world.  Instead of honoring God's plan that we would be masters and caretakers of all God has given, we have exploited the earth for our own benefit.

Nothing in life is just about me.  It's always about others, and, I would say, it's especially about the generations to come.  That's why God connects, in scripture, the gift of sunshine with rain, and both as needed, not for good feelings primarily, but about life... and about "bearing fruit," that is, being fruitful and multiplying life.

We human beings are always on the lookout for more and more comfort.  Our sinful selves crave more and more pleasure.  As one looks out at the devastation that humans have caused on earth, reducing the number of species that God created instead of guarding and protecting them, one can see sin at work.  It is so sad.

Nothing in life is really "about me" or my pleasure.  Even the most personal and pleasureable things, for example, eating and sex, are guarded by God from being purely self-centered because both have more significant purpose for these activities.  Eating is really for sustaining and maintaining life so that I can do what God has called me to do--to be "fruitful" in my work.  Eating is not really about making me feel good, even though there is very little that makes us feel more loved and happy than a good meal.  We find the same in terms of sex.  Feelings of erotic love and the sexual acts are hugely pleasurable, but they have another purpose.  Sexual intercourse, as wonderful as it is, is designed by God for begetting children, for being "fruitful."*  We can see this as we consider God's purpose in putting strict limits on sexual relations.

Even in these most personal things, we get in trouble when we separate the pleasure from the purpose of "fruitfulness."  The same is true when it comes to living for our own comfort in any way.  We need to consider this as we, for example, consider turning on our air conditioners this summer.  What effect is that having in the wider world?  What's my environmental footprint?  Will I care about the effects it has on others beyond myself and those I know personally?  Or will I allow the Spirit of God to move me to follow Jesus, who lived for others instead of for himself? (Philippians 2:3-5)

I've written this quickly today (and revised it once) and I'm sure there are (still) things that could be sharpened about this post... Let me know what I've missed by commenting below, sending me an email, or by otherwise contacting me.  Let's keep the dialog going.

*The fact that many sexual acts don't result in children does not make sex's purpose merely self- or couple-centered.  For more on this see Why Not?