Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Caring About Winter

DC schools closing at 1:00 so Crossroads Youth & JAM will not be held tonight. 

Winter goes on and on.
"We rail against the weather in part because we understand that we are living in a world where the feel of sun on one’s face, the smell of damp soil, the sound of pounding waves, and the sight of a blooming hillside are truly gifts of a God who is warmth and growth and strength and beauty, and who, in bestowing such gifts on us, gives us himself."
Our daughter Naomi shared that quote from "Looking for God in a Long Winter" by Ellen Painter Dollar.  

According to the MN DNR we are now tied for tenth place of days at or below zero (in the Twin Cities)...  Tomorrow we'll move a tie for 8th place and Friday into 7th!  We may as well go for 5th!  Let's pass up the entire 20th century!!! 

As we celebrate making it through this winter, DO NOT FORGET THOSE IN NEED!  Let's care for one another, in Jesus' name.
Ranking of at or Below Temperatures in the Twin Cities
(Year listed is the winter ending year)
1981-2010 Normal: 23

Rank    Year    Total
  1    1875    68
  2    1887    58
  3    1888    57
  4    1873    56
  5    1978    53
  6    1917    51
  7    1936    50
  8    1884    49
        1965    49
10    1883    48

        1899    48
        1904    48
        1962    48
        2014    48
(2014 will reach 5th place if we get below 0 each night through Monday -- the forecast says we will.)

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Little Test

I was going to say "good morning" as I began this quick note (now at 12:15 p.m.) but I see that the morning is already gone.  There are a lot of things on my to do list right now but I wanted to stop quickly and say "hi."   I haven't written since Thursday and a lot has happened since then.

As I was writing that post ("Jealous?"), the snow was coming down.  I was out shoveling several times on Thursday and again on Friday morning as we went through a remarkable winter storm.  Our Thursday afternoon  message planning meeting was abbreviated and moved from North Heights to the telephone.  We were still able to get the spring message series ("Living the Dream") fleshed out, thanks to our network partners Todd Mathison and Eric Bluhm.  Work on the summer series will need to be scheduled later.

On Friday I was wondering, and praying, about how I was going to get things ready for Sunday morning.  I wasn't clear about what direction the message on "You Shall Not Covet..." was going to take and I was planning on leaving later that day for the men's retreat.  I'd spent significant time in prayer and study throughout the week (and before) but a good direction wasn't coming clear.  (There were too many things on the subject that I wanted to share.)

So, I was working and praying in the morning, not knowing if I'd even be able to go on the retreat.  But then God opened a door!  It occurred to me that I could gain some inspiration and organization for Sunday by listening to the message that had been already shared at one of our network churches.  (We're a running a week behind the other churches with this "Ten Commandments" series.)   I started listening to the recording of Per Nilsen's message and had the sense that this would be good for us to hear.

How good it is to work together!  So good not to be alone or to think I need to "do it all."  God provides brothers and sisters to come alongside, and the group that does this message planning work together is one evidence of that. 

But even more than working with the other people I mentioned in this post so far, what's remarkable is how GOD works together for good "to those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose." 
  • Our area schools were closed on Friday because of the snowstorm, and that allowed me the time needed to prepare a study sheet that would help our people catch more of what Per had to share.  I did some more on Saturday during "free time" at the men's retreat. 
  • On Sunday morning I finished it up before going to church but clicked the wrong option on my computer and lost it.  All that work--gone.  I screamed (out loud at home -- only me and the dog were here) and called Toni.  She and the worship team were praying -- and somehow I was given the ability to recover the work.  There was much rejoicing! 
Hopefully the study sheet was of some help to people -- but I, for one, can testify to God's goodness in this whole process.  And there are other things that God was doing over these days that I know about but haven't noted here.  Perhaps I'll add something later -- and I'll post the study sheet too.

From this little test God has made a testimony.  God provides when we trust, obey, and pray.  Thank you Jesus.

Time to head out for the afternoon school bus run now!

Thursday, February 20, 2014


I've been thinking more about what I wrote earlier this week (see God Provides).  I briefly mentioned jealousy, saying:
As I talk about my life I think about the many people who might get jealous of all that we have.
I think about the many...
  • who don't have the income or financial resources that we do.
  • who live in crowded or noisy or unsafe places.
  • who are unemployed or underemployed.
  • whose family situations are difficult.
  • who are constantly lonely.
I consider
  • refugees
  • those living in slavery
  • the ones who suffer with constant pain or physical or mental illness.
  • the desperately poor.
I also think about
  • those whose reputations are tarnished because of past offenses or rumors.
  • those who are hiding (or hiding behind) lies and addictions.
  • those who are tormented by spiritual (demonic) forces beyond their understanding.
  • those living under threats or abuse.
  • the ones whose rulers are unjust, cruel, corrupt.
And especially
  • those who don't know Jesus and his total forgiveness.
As I think of these people, I ask myself if it's bad for them to be jealous. 
  • Is it bad for them to want the same advantages I have?  
  • Isn't it good for them to long, to yearn, to deeply desire to move from where they're at to a new place, to a safer, healthier, and generally "better" situation?  
And I'll even go so far as to ask -
  • Is it wrong for them to "covet" what I have?
Of course, coveting is a trap because it has no limits.  Once I start wanting more there doesn't seem to be any end to it.  For more on that truth see Elizabeth Norland's post here.

Even so, I'm thinking of these things (above) as I continue my preparations for preaching this coming Sunday.  I'm looking at an outline with a "message synopsis" and "talking points" that was put together by the "network" of church leaders that meet about every four months or so to sketch out ideas for preaching themes.  We're entering a series on the Ten Commandments, counting back from #10 "You shall not covet... anything that belongs to your neighbor," and ending with the first commandment right around Easter time.

This first message of the series, this "tenth" commandment--it's got me a bit stymied.  I'm stuck a bit as I consider the long list of people I know who are truly in need.  Does the commandment against coveting apply to them?  Or does it only apply to those who already have "enough."

It's interesting to note that one of the first things the Holy Spirit did when He came to live among us was to take away some of the inequality that can provoke jealousy, envy and covetousness.  The book of Acts says "there was not a needy person among them."  (And, of course, the prophets often speak against those who jealously hang on to the lion's share of the wealth.)

So, I ask:
  • Is some of what I have actually that which rightfully belongs to the family of God instead of to me personally?  
  • Is my desire to hang on to my middle class status a symptom of a deep seated unchallenged covetousness within me?  
  • And, as I consider others around me and around the world, is my relative wealth the cause of covetousness for some?  
  • Am I causing others to stumble?  See Mark 9:42-49

Please pray for me as I continue to pray and study.  I'll plan to write more on this subject as I prepare to preach this Sunday.

The video above is from a blog by Elizabeth Norland.
She wrote a extensive piece entitled "Covetousness--Rampant!"
Highly recommended!

Monday, February 17, 2014

God Provides

Toni and I are back in Cokato.  Yesterday was her birthday so after yesterday's potluck at Crossroads we went down to spend some time with Toni's parents.  We went together to a choir concert and then our sons and daughter in law joined us for the evening.  Toni and I spent the night, brought Jon & Breanna back to North Central, ran an errand and drove to Cokato.  I spent quite a while shoveling out the driveway, Toni went to get groceries and then went out to pick up Charlie the dog.

We've been home all evening.  I enjoy being home.  I give thanks often for this wonderful place where we live.  I often say that this house is bigger than what we need but, on the other hand, I believe God provided it to us.  I just want it to be used for good.

As I talk about my life I think about the many people who might get jealous of all that we have.  Not only do I have a nice home (on which we are paying a mortgage), we also have employment, paychecks, each other (Toni and I), a loving family, supportive friends, worthwhile things to do, two cars that run well, many tools for work (including this computer), money in the bank, some pension money (though not as much as we probably "should" have for our old age), health insurance coverage (that we're paying a LOT for each month), and so many, many more things.  And we do not have any debts (besides the mortgage).

Many years ago, when Toni and I had just gotten married, I remember when Toni's sister's father-in-law came up the stairs to the second-floor duplex we were renting.  I have a mental picture of him (John Abel) looking at our little kitchen and saying this:
"God's provision is His estimate of our need."
I remember him saying that and I remember thinking to myself, yes, it's true.  This apartment is what we need right now.  Not more, not less.  And ever since then God has continued to provide.  We've never been "without."  We've always had enough--and more.  I can't express how thankful I am for this life.  Wow.

I'm thinking about these things tonight in connection with a message that is planned for this coming Sunday at Crossroads.  The "network" of churches and pastors that I work with selected "The Ten Commandments" as the theme to be addressed in messages over the next few weeks--beginning with the last commandment ("You all not covet your neighbor's...") and working our way up to the first ("You shall have no other gods...").

In many ways the Holy Spirit has worked in me to make me content with what I have.  It's not very often that I honestly desire to have what someone else has, whether it's their house or their spouse or anything that belongs to them.  I say "honestly desire" because God has also given me wisdom--wisdom to know that not everything (or everyone) that 'looks good' to me at any given moment would truly BE good if I were to actually have it.  Surface desires and superficial fantasies don't go deep for me because I know, as the old proverb says, "All that glitters is not gold."  Knowing that truth doesn't always keep desire away, but it does keep me from acting stupid in terms of grabbing what isn't mine.  Thanks God, for that!.

I believe that God has indeed written this command on my heart.  When I find myself slipping into deeper desire for what God has not given me, I go to prayer and to God's Word, where I learn both the beauty of contentment and the dangers of covetousness.  And I am so thankful for the promises of God, that one day all desire will be focused where it should be, on Him and on what He chooses to give.  In the Kingdom of God (in heaven) all desire will be perfectly in tune with God's will.  Now I see that truth and experience it in part, but then it shall be complete.

Pray with me please that all God's people will be set free from covetousness so that we can use all our lives to praise and love our Lord--and to bless those who have far less.  And pray that we will see clearly about how this message can be shared in a helpful way this coming Sunday, Feb. 23, at Crossroads.  If you have insights that would be helpful, please share in whatever way works for you.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


God desires us to be active.  If we are handicapped or confined in some way, God calls us to do all we can.  We can do nothing to gain God's favor, and we can be secure in knowing God's saving love that comes to us without any effort on our part but we are not saved just to be taken out of this world.  God's plan for us is to be actively pursuing the kingdom of God in our lives here and now.

Two things got me thinking about these things in recent days -
  1. An interview with Dr. John Arden that I ran into on "Shrink Rap Radio."  Dr. Arden is the author of The Brain Bible: How to Stay Vital, Productive, and Happy for a Lifetime  He spoke about five areas of our lives that we need to actively work on--five areas of life that can be remembered by the acronym S.E.E.D.S. - Social connections, Exercise, Education, Diet, Sleep.  Take time to listen to the interview if you can.  When we pay attention to the things that our bodies and brains need we honor our creator and make it more possible for us to serve the Lord long term in this life.  A description of the interview and a link to a recording can be found here.  Or, you can go straight to the mp3 audio here.
  2.  Last night, at our amazing High School JAM time, we looked at the passage from the sermon on the mount in Matthew 7 where Jesus tells his disciples to Ask and Seek and Knock.  This asking and seeking and knocking is a regular, constant practice in our lives, not just a one time thing.  Like we breathe often, we pray, and we utilize the brains and bodies we have to keep up that process of seeking and searching for the will of God and keep doing whatever we can to "knock," that is, to make a fuss to some extent about what is needed.  It's interesting how the Lord doesn't expect us to just passively wait but tells us to be busy about this asking and seeking and knocking on a regular basis, using all our strength to do this without giving up.
Faith and action are two sides of the same coin.  Let us use all we have and all that the Lord gives us to proclaim God's kingdom.  Don't stay quiet.  Don't let the devil distract you through entertainment.  Too many of us spend too much time watching physical and spiritual athletes instead of doing what we can.  Too many of us have a poor understanding of the connection between "faith and action."

Let's pursue the truth about this... but, today, let's do something!  How will you respond to the call to faith in action today?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Men (and Women) in Christ
Ten days from now I plan to be on my way to Camp Shamineau near Motley MN with many other men from the Dassel-Cokato area.  I have been blessed by these "Men's Retreats" in previous years and am looking forward to being up there again.  Some quick info that we put together is at   I have tickets and we can share rides!

One thing that is always highlighted at these retreats is the important leadership role men have in the home.  I agree that men have a leadership role and I think that the men's retreat often helps men to stop retreating from their spiritual responsibilities.  (Pun intended. ;-)

I do not, however, believe that men are superior to women, in the home or anywhere else. 

Both men and women are made in God's image, equally, and both are redeemed by Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit in the same way.  There is no hierarchy in the home when it comes to men and women.  That's what I believe.  You may disagree.  I invite you to enter into conversation with me if you do.

Some would ask how I can say that when there are several passages in the Bible that seem to prefer men over women.  The discussion of this issue is complex and it can't be dealt with in a simple way.  Groups such as Christians for Biblical Equality have devoted much time and study and prayer to these issues.  Here I'm just letting you know where I stand.

Here's a short piece from an article entitled "What Is Biblical Equality" by Alan G. Padgett, published in 2002 in an issue of the Priscilla Papers.  This is not the only possible interpretation of scripture in regard to men and women that is faithful, but I believe this is one of those that is.
From "What is Biblical Equality" - click here for the article in full (pdf format).

"...Husband and wife alike are equally responsible to Christ, the true center of the Christian home. True, Paul does tell wives to submit to their husbands and says that men are the “head” of women. But these statements must be read in context, and interpreted in their own times. In the longest section on men and women in his letters, Ephesians 5:21–33, Paul begins with the duty of all Christians to submit to one another in the fear of Christ (v. 21). Those who focus only on what Paul has to say to women and slaves often misunderstand this point. The passage as a whole begins with mutual submission.

"What is mutual submission? It is nothing less than love in action. I see the need in my sister or brother and meet it from my own strength and gifting from God. Most of what Paul has to say in this passage is written to the husband, who must love his wife and give of his own life and power, just as Christ sacrificed himself for the church. The word head in Paul, when not pointing to a literal head, means the one who is “first” in some way, not some kind of authority or power figure. This point is often misunderstood. We must allow Paul to use the word in a variety of ways.

"In this passage it means being first in loving service. “The husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior” (v. 23, NRSV). Paul extends this teaching later (vv. 28–32) in the heart of this passage. Overall, he insists that husband as “head” cares for and loves the wife as his own “body.” Head in this chapter does not mean the man dominates and rules over the woman. True, wives are taught to “submit in everything to their husbands” just as the church does to Christ (v. 24). But this is in the context of mutual submission of all to Christ (v. 21). The force of the passage as a whole is calling husbands to self-giving sacrifice for their wives; that is, it is calling husbands likewise to submit to their wives (without saying it in this exact way)...
I invite your comments. Let's discuss together!

Friday, February 7, 2014

What Is Church More Like?

The following email went out yesterday evening.

Church Study Group and others -  (feel free to share this! Anyone who is a part of Crossroads and is a man or woman of prayer and Bible study is invited to come...)

Good evening friends, brother and sisters.  And good morning to those who receive this tomorrow!

This will serve as a reminder of this Saturday morning's study - 7:30 - 9:00 AM.

We have been considering the question of "What is the Church More Like..."  Attached (click here) please find a slightly updated version of a handout that we've been looking at.  (I can send it to you as a .doc file if that's more helpful.  Let me know.)

The questions at the top [of the handout] are key -- When it comes to what the church is "more like" (under the various categories) we are asking the following questions:

What Does the Bible Say?
What have we experienced?

Which direction is God calling us?

How will we get there?  How will we bring people along?

We've been looking at some Biblical analogies for the church... this week I'd like us to consider the chapter that one of Frank Viola's critics says is his most helpful - chapter 5 about the church as "The Family of God."  Please read it ahead of time if you can.  If you don't have a copy let me know and I'll send it to you.

Once we come to a consensus about what the Bible says about the church, consider what we have experienced (recently and in the past), we can ask "which direction is God calling us" and then move to the strategic questions "How will we get there?" and "How will we bring people along?"  Those last two questions will involve the discussion of leadership.

Looking forward to seeing you!  Pray for the enlightenment and peace of the Holy Spirit.

Steve Thorson
Crossroads Community Church, Cokato

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Fun and War

So last night, before JAM and THE TRUTH, our 6th-12th graders had some fun with an indoor snowball fight, otherwise known as a "Marshmallow War."  Here's a picture and a 10 second video clip

THANK YOU to all the adults who make these Wednesday evenings worthwhile--and fun!  Want something good to happen for the youth of your kids age group? Pray! Then step out with others you know! Don't wait for someone else!

JAM and LQ

The image below is from my facebook... I'm sharing this here so others can be in on what God has been doing in our midst with our young people.  As I said last night "I am blessed beyond words."  Since we posted this on facebook last night someone has already come forward to send one of our youth to this summer's Leadership Quest.  Again - blessed.

I am so thankful that I can be a part of JAM with these young people. Give thanks and pray for these growing disciples of the Lord.

If you'd be willing to invest in youth leadership, please let me know. You can send one to this life building experience for $360 (before March 15) or make a contribution as you are able. For more about leadership quest go to LQ -- for more about High School JAM go here.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Total Love

"Love seeks not its own."  (First Corinthians 15:3).  The following is from a commentary on this verse by R. C. H. Lenski
The proper bearing of love is due to its genuine unselfishness, for love “seeks not its own,” the things that belong to oneself, one’s own pleasure, profit, honor, etc. True love is always unselfish. How easily said, how hard to attain! Selfishness lies at the root of a thousand evils and sins in the world and in the church: between rich and poor, capital and labor, nation and nation, man and man, church member and church member. Cure selfishness, and you plant a Garden of Eden. As when one draws a beautiful face and makes one feature after another stand out until the eyes at last light up the whole and give it complete expression, so in this portrait of love the inspired artist paints the eyes full of unselfishness, seeking in every glance not their own but that which is another’s. Yes, this is love: no envy, no boasting, no pride, no unseemliness because it is altogether unselfish. Not for self (negative) = for others (positive).
If you find you lack unselfish love, do not try (or try harder) to be more loving.  You may be under attack from the self-centered "spirit of this age," a spirit that permeates and rules hearts and minds all over the world.  Admit your weakness to stand under this attack.  Tell Jesus you need him.  Ask the HOLY SPIRIT to fill you with total love and expect that your life will be different from those around you--different even from those closest to you--even from your own family.  There is great reward in surrendering to our Lord.

After all, it is through total love (God's total love in Jesus) that you are saved.