Thursday, April 30, 2015

Problem People?

"The truth of the matter is that the Church can be the wrong place to have a mental illness. This is a generalization, I know. But many times it is true. We have a strong tendency to offer only token acknowledgement of 'the least among us.' We will smile and nod, and, oh so quickly move away; we feel we’ve performed our ‘duty’ as a Christian. We are somewhat relieved to ‘get away’ and dodge the problem person."
I have, for many years, appreciated the work of Pastor Bryan Lowe who writes at as someone who suffers from a variety of illnesses. He is honest and humble and I thank God for his courage.

This morning he posted what I quoted above. He speaks of "mental illness"; I believe that we often do not know who suffers in that way, and we are rarely told just what labels or diagnoses have been placed on their troubles by professionals. We just see some folks as being "strange" in some ways, or we find our relationships with them to be difficult and we don't know why. Sometimes it's because of issues that come from ways in which a physical organ, the brain, is not functioning in a way that is helpful.

After reading Pastor Lowe's article this morning, I commented about some specific ways in which the church is "the wrong place" to have a mental illness, not because God does not want people with such troubles to be part of the church, but because church people don't deal with these things very well.

Here are my comments. Let me know what you think.
Thank you for this, Bryan. Two points:

+ In the upper midwest region of the United States we prefer to deal with people who are calm or cool or not too emotional. We walk the other way when our non-conforming sisters and brothers cry or shout or refuse to back down from the passion that (perhaps) God has put in their hearts. We pass judgment on what they would share with us and refuse to consider the truth of what they want to share (examining the evidence) because of the way they speak or present themselves. This makes us less compassionate and wise in our dealings with the world. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for the church to avoid passing judgment on the “messenger” before we carefully examine the truth (or not) of what they share.

+ As is true with the economically challenged (poor) among us, we sometimes shove those who struggle with emotional and mental health away from our churches and force them to get help only from professionals, often at public expense. And then we complain about dear and precious people who use public services. God calls the church to step up alongside those who are suffering. I wonder how many local churches truly pursue the suffering instead of tolerating them or perhaps helping once but then rejecting them.

Lots more to say but that’s enough for now.
Check out Bryan's original article and comment if you like at Ignoring a Mentally Ill Believer. Those with mental and emotional challenges certainly are an example of the least of these we are called to befriend -- and often carefully discern and receive uncommon wisdom through their gifts from God.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Uncertainty and the Spiritual Life

The board of directors of Crossroads Community Church includes many blessed men and women of God. Yesterday I posted a quote from Graham Cooke that came to us via one of them. This morning another board member sent me a text:
"O.C. is a delight today. Read him if you can. Fits our walk."
"O.C." is Oswald Chambers, author of a famous day by day book entitled My Utmost for His Highest, "a daily devotional composed of 365 selections of Chamber's talks, each of about 500 words." On Sunday morning Tom Stover mentioned that he has learned more from Oswald Chambers than from many seminary professors, saying that he is "the greatest theologian I studied under, and he's been dead since 19[17]." (Go here for a link to a recording of last Sunday's worship gathering and Tom's message which begins about 28 minutes from the beginning.)

I've appreciated Oswald so much too, especially since the board member who sent me the text gave me a copy of the book. We link to his devotionals on our church website each day.

Here is what "O.C." writes for today based on a verse from John's First Epistle -
Gracious Uncertainty

…it has not yet been revealed what we shall be… —1 John 3:2

Our natural inclination is to be so precise – trying always to forecast accurately what will happen next – that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing. We think that we must reach some predetermined goal, but that is not the nature of the spiritual life. The nature of the spiritual life is that we are certain in our uncertainty. Consequently, we do not put down roots. Our common sense says, “Well, what if I were in that circumstance?” We cannot presume to see ourselves in any circumstance in which we have never been.

Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life – gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. This is generally expressed with a sigh of sadness, but it should be an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. As soon as we abandon ourselves to God and do the task He has placed closest to us, He begins to fill our lives with surprises. When we become simply a promoter or a defender of a particular belief, something within us dies. That is not believing God– it is only believing our belief about Him. Jesus said, “…unless you…become as little children…” (Matthew 18:3). The spiritual life is the life of a child. We are not uncertain of God, just uncertain of what He is going to do next. If our certainty is only in our beliefs, we develop a sense of self-righteousness, become overly critical, and are limited by the view that our beliefs are complete and settled. But when we have the right relationship with God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy. Jesus said, “…believe also in Me” (John 14:1), not, “Believe certain things about Me”. Leave everything to Him and it will be gloriously and graciously uncertain how He will come in– but you can be certain that He will come. Remain faithful to Him.
The board member who referred me to this is right. This does fit our walk. Uncertainty builds our trust in God. Let's walk through this day and the days to come, absolutely confident that God will hold us like a little child.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Spirit vs carnality

A helpful quote from Graham Cooke was posted on our church's facebook page by a member of our church board of directors on Sunday evening after Crossroads' Sunday "after worship meeting."  That was the "annual meeting" of Crossroads -- a meeting that was suspended and will resume on May 17. 

As I wrote earlier at A Call to Prayer, this delay "will give us needed time to pray, and to listen to and hear what the Lord has to say."

Here's what was posted by the board member:
Something I came across in a book on church and transition by Graham Cooke a few years back:

"Transition is about tension, change, uncertainty, fear, disturbance, redirection, remodeling, mess, excitement, re-envisioning, new call, fresh faith, unpredictability, frustration, disagreement, adventure, moving on, uprooting, and the unknown!

"All these things will test our capacity to express the nature of God in the fruit of the Spirit. Spirit vs carnality is a major part of transition.

"Basically, if the Spirit wins, we move on successfully in a remodeled church with a new anointing, fresh faith, and a new sense of vision and destiny..."
Click here to see the original post on facebook and my comment.

Call to Prayer

The following email went out to the Crossroads Community Church email list last night. The Bible verse quoted at the end is the "Watchword For the Day" from the Moravian Daily Texts for yesterday

Only as we take time to pray together and listen to the Lord together will we receive His guidance and direction as a body.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: call to prayer
From: Crossroads Community Church
Date: Mon, April 27, 2015 10:58 pm

Crossroads Friends:

As we make important decisions it's vital that we spend a good amount of time together in prayer and in the Word of God.

 If you are able, please pause today at 6:30 p.m. for prayer and listening for God's voice. Come to church if you can for prayer at that time.

If that time and place doesn't work for you, spend time in prayer and in the Word of God on your own and then, afterward, please send me (Pastor Steve T) a message on email or text or leave a voice mail of what the Lord says to you as you pray.

We began our annual meeting on Sunday, April 26 after an awesome worship time with Pastor Tom Stover of the Franklin Avenue Mission and a great potluck. We did not complete the meeting. It will resume after worship on May 17. That will allow each of us this needed time to pray, and to listen to and hear what the Lord has to say.

"Now set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God..." (1 Chronicles 22:19a)

 Pastor Steve Thorson

Saturday, April 25, 2015

What a Privilege It Is

[Added Sunday 5 PM - Click here to go to a website where you can listen to a recording of the April 26 worship gathering.]
"We are entering a time of discernment for the future of Crossroads and the individuals.  Who is God calling to continue to meet together as 'Crossroads'"?
(from preliminary minutes of Crossroads Community Church's Board of Directors regular April meeting)

"This Sunday (26th) is the church’s annual partner meeting.  This is an extremely important meeting.  Not only will we be looking back at the past year, but making decisions about Crossroad’s future.  If there is any way you can attend, please make it happen.  Pastor Tom Stover will be sharing a message from God’s word during worship.  Pastor Tom is one of the founding people of Franklin Avenue Mission that we assist with once a month, but he does so much more as a psychologist and pastor with Holy Trinity Church and Ministries and Trinity First Church.  After worship we will then share a potluck meal together and then move into our annual meeting."
(from an email that went out late Thursday afternoon from the Crossroads office on behalf of the board)
Those who have been following this blog may have seen Friday's post about Tom Stover who will be preaching at Crossroads tomorrow. He chose action oriented scriptures (James 2:14-20 and Matthew 25:31-40) and will be preaching a message entitled What a Privilege It Is.

He'll be speaking about the privilege it is to serve the poor. But when I see that title, I think of what a privilege it is to serve the with the people of Crossroads over the past four years.

At the meeting I've asked that a print version of my post "Small But Mighty In the Lord" be handed out. As we consider what we will be doing as individuals and families in relation to this church, and as we move toward choices that those who feel called to be a part of Crossroads will be making for the church as a whole, it's my prayer that we'll recognize what a privilege it is to see the Lord at work in our midst now in 2015.

Last Sunday I announced that I'll be moving on from Crossroads sometime soon, probably in early June. (See my post "Confident in God's Good Future" for the announcement I made during last Sunday's message. If plans stay as they are, I'll be starting training as a bus operator for Metro Transit, perhaps as soon as June 8.) That announcement, which was known to the board ahead of time, adds one more reason that tomorrow's meeting is especially important. 

Please pray that the Lord will guide those who are current Crossroads "partners" (see info on "Partnership" on the Crossroads website) to make good decisions, both about their personal future involvement with this church and about the choices they make about our church's future as a whole. Please pray that we would celebrate and give thanks for all God is continuing to do through this amazing group of believers. God has blessed me so much through all of you!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Exciting Moves Ahead!

I found a place to write a bit, at a coffee shop in Bloomington across the street from the "Room and Board" store where I dropped off a class of high school students as a part of their Interior Decorating class. It's a "field trip" for this class today, and I've got "my" bus securely parked and waiting. We have two more stops today before we head back to DC.

I wanted to find a place to write about some the positive and exciting changes that are ahead for me and for us in the months to come. But now I'm here and I'm wondering just what to write.

I'm wondering what to write, not because I don't have a lot to share, because it's been brought to my attention that things are different now that I'm transitioning to a new phase of life.

In my life as a pastor I found that writing openly like this was really helpful and motivating for me, and, I think, helpful for at least some people in the ministries that I've served. But now I'm puzzled about what my relationship with this "Sharing Ministry and Faith" blog will be going forward, now that I'm transitioning out of my work in the Cokato area--where this blog began.

Anyway, instead of writing here today, I need to pause and pray and talk with loved ones about this blog. But I want to repeat something so you'll know it's true: I am just as positive and excited about what God will be doing in and through me today and tomorrow and next week, next month and next year as I ever have been.

So I'll probably write a few emails today instead of writing on here right now, and, if you ask, I'd love to share with you in whatever ways works for you: face to face, on the phone, texting, email, whatever. Please ask if your curious. I'm not shy. God is so good at all times, including the present. It's a thrill to follow Him.

Tom's Story - The Beginning

Our Guest Speaker this coming Sunday at Crossroads: Tom Stover of the Franklin Avenue Mission. We got to know Tom through Paul Gustafson, who had work
Tom Stover (at right) in photo from April 2011
ed alongside us, and Tom, for several years in the late 2000s.

Here's Tom's Story (from

Matthew 25:34-40

“…For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me… What you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me..”

Tom Writes: 

During my first year of seminary one of our required courses was that each student would need to spend five days in the intercity of Minneapolis and St. Paul involved with outreach ministries to the poor. We would be spending these days meeting with different ministry directors in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis learning about their ‘calls and passions’ and then we would get our hands dirty doing ministry. What I must confess to you is; I entered this course skeptical and with a very negative attitude. I was at seminary to learn Scripture, theology and doctrine and not to be spending my time pretending I was getting something done driving around the intercity. To tell you the truth, I really believed that if people wanted to do better for themselves all they needed to do was to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, work harder and quit making excuses. Again, I do feel ashamed to tell you this was my attitude and it wasn’t that I didn’t care; it was that I really believed that the best way that we could help most of the people there was to educate them on the value of good hard work.

I need to tell you that on my first night out on the street I had a major paradigm shift concerning the homeless.  It was a very cold January evening and our group was brought to the Catholic Charities facilities in downtown Minneapolis where we were going to give out some hot food, toiletries, prayer and encouragement to the men and women who were at the shelter. When I entered Catholic charities on the first floor that night and I looked around at a sea of cold and tired men taking cots and trying to find some space on the crowded floor amongst all the chaos, I was overwhelmed.  A thought came to me, “that most of these men couldn’t pull themselves up by their bootstraps because they don’t have any boots and if you gave them boots they probably wouldn’t know what to do with them anyway.” It was at that moment I felt in my spirit the Lord say in a very somber way, “Hey Tom, how’s that theology of yours working now?”

Much of my world view changed that night. That was in January of 2003 and I’ve been in the intercity doing ministry ever since. Over the years the Lord has been very gracious as he has taught and mentored all of us at Holy Trinity Ministries. One of the wonderful revelations the Lord has shown us is; as we begin our ministry to the poor and the needy most of us begin with the idea that this is all about those we minister to however, the fact of the matter is, our ministry to the poor and needy is as much for us as it is for them. As we reach out to help those who are hurting the Holy Spirit changes us from the inside out as we begin to see everything new – how we judge people, how we love on people and how we see our own circumstances with a new spirit of thanksgiving.  It always amazes me how involved and how close the Lord is when we are doing this ministry; I believe it is something very dear to Him!

Matthew 25:40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ”

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Confident in God's Good Future

Note added May 8: To learn more about the upcoming transition and to read about the the ways I see that the Lord is carrying us through these days, look at other April blog posts and what is being written now in May. He, our Lord Jesus, is faithful in everything!

[The rest of this was written on Sunday, April 19.]

Toward the end of today's message at Crossroads, I made an announcement that impacts our future here in the DC area. You can listen to the whole worship gathering at THIS LINK ... but the quality of the recording is not so good this time.

Here it is, pretty much as it was actually said at worship today:

... There's no good time to do this...

... There's some changes going on with Toni and I. We are walking through some changes, the church is walking through some changes.

You guys have known, I've said before, that I was looking for another job to supplement income because, hey, we're not exactly busting out the seams here, and so we keep our eyes open for what might be coming next and I've made a decision that I'm going to be doing something else.

Starting in June at some point, and I don't know exactly what that's going to be yet, but I do have a position that I've been offered. I've always said to Toni, well, if nothing else, I can drive bus.

So that's my plan right now, unless the Lord opens another door between now and then, is that I'm going to drive, not school bus, but city bus, during the rush hour; they always looking for... people to do that sort of thing, so, that's the plan.

You know, when we came here to Dassel-Cokato area there were five of us. We came as a family, and Naomi went off... off she went to the cities. A couple years later... Daniel went off, well first he went to Concordia and then to the cities. And then Jonathan, off with Breanna, and now our granddaughter is in the cities. And so there's kind of this magnetic pull. ...

So we'll probably end up [there], exactly when, I don't know, but my plan right now is that, I've talked to the board this last week, and we have an agreement with the church that there would be a 60 day notice, now the board said "we'll change that to a two week notice" just to allow some flexibility.

The plan, though, is, for... I was thinking the last Sunday in May, maybe it'll be the first Sunday in June, don't know exactly yet about when my "last Sunday" would be, but... please pray for us as we go through this.

The reason I want to bring this up now is that "What Next," really is all about Jesus and what he is calling us to, what God is calling us to. There are lots of details to be thought about.

As we consider how we're going to transition our lives quickly, or over a longer time, but the point is that God carries us. He's going to take care of us. He's going to take care of Toni and I. He's going to take care of you guys.

We love you very much. Some of you have been with us through thick and thin for a very long time. It's wonderful, it's great... but today... during the church family time, I handed off the microphone, and I just watched you guys at work. I was just standing over there, marveling at how this body functions. It's so sweet. And, each one you will need to be praying to see what God wants you to do.

There's that verse that says "Don't forsake gathering together as you see the Day approaching," that's not about when I go, but I hope you don't just run off... Becky was saying the other day "No lame duck pastoring..." ...We'll love each other and spend time together as we do this next thing.

But this is the verse I was going to close with because I think it's so fitting here. Jesus said this in John 14: Let not your hearts be troubled. In Jesus' Father's house there are many rooms, I, Jesus, to to prepare a place for you... and I will come again so that where I am there you may be also.

That's what's really next for us, is being in the house of the Lord, for ever and ever and ever amen. We know who the victor is. We know that he wants us to be with him. What a great thing. And a lot of the details are not known to us yet. They're known to God only. But because of Jesus we can be confident in our good future. Say that with me: Because of Jesus we can be confident in our good future.

We have a lot of questions about what's going to happen. We talk about it just as we talk about the weather. "Oh, what's going to happen tomorrow?"

Let's just do what God calls us to do. Okay? Extending the kingdom of God, in the places where he plants us.

Now that was a little bit longer than usual... if you get another pastor maybe sometime you can make sure that "only this amount of time... [for the message or worship]" That's up to you guys.

Or maybe you'll decide to have multiple elders. We had a study about this, we had a church study group--we looked at some of the early church stuff where there were multiple elders that were kind of pastoring a church together. There's no scripture that says you have to have a particular individual who is the leader of a particular church. You guys will be praying about that.

The board is going to meet again tomorrow night. And next week there will be the annual meeting and there'll be some conversation then.

Don't forget the potluck next week and we'll eat together.

And then we'll trust the Lord.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What's Next?

During our 10:15 AM worship gatherings at Crossroads we've been seeking answers to questions about Jesus. Who Is Jesus? Why Did Jesus Die? Did Jesus really rise from the dead? (a.k.a. "Look Into It") and last Sunday What's Jesus Doing Now? Now this week we'll wrap up with What's Next?

What's next for Jesus? Now that he's reigning and ruling in creation and in those who have received him as their Lord, what's next? What's next for Him -- and what's next for us?

I saw a story online that ran last summer on daytime TV about a guy who has worn a name tag 24/7 for over 14 years. He's even had a name tag tattooed onto his chest. You never need to wonder, when you meet him, "Who is that?" No anonymous, no incognito. He is who he is and everyone knows it all the time. It will be with him -- on his body -- until this life is over. His name is SCOTT. You can't miss it. Ever.

Last week, during our message time, I encouraged people to take their church bulletin, fold it so the top of the bulletin back cover, with its illustration of God: Father, Son, Spirit was on the outside. And then I invited them to put it on themselves. On their heart. On their head. On their hands and on their feet. Why? Because the Holy Spirit, through the speaking and declaring of the Word of God, takes all that belongs to Jesus and gives us to us. Jesus, always with the Father and the Holy Spirit, comes to live inside us. There is no separation between us and our God. And nothing can ever rip us apart.

Like Scott's name is always on him, so Jesus' name is on you. And that won't change. It's 24/7.

So therefore, Jesus' future - it's our future too. And this week we'll look into that. What's next for Jesus -- that's coming up for you and me also.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Small But Mighty in the Lord

Jan. 4, 2015
The picture that I'm posting at right is from January, the first worship gathering of this year. (On my computer screen it's at my right, not sure how it will appear on yours.)

I put it here because I'm so much enjoying being with these people, maybe even especially this year. Our numbers are small -- I need to be reminded of that because I have had such a positive feeling about Crossroads these days.  It is sad for me that so many that have been a part of this church family over the past 4 years have chosen to leave and go elsewhere, but it's been such a blessing to serve the Lord alongside those who have felt God's call to either stay or to come as fresh faces in our fellowship.

One of the big highlights for me has been seeing people take leadership roles. These include Crossroads people heading up:
  • Youth Ministry. This is an ongoing blessing. We wondered, last summer, how our work with young people was going to fare when two or more of the key adults chose to step away from Crossroads. But Libby and Mark (doing double duty with youth on Wednesdays AND Sundays!) Nancy, Krista and Toni and Steve Nelson (from Freedom Church) bring blessing to our kids every week, and then there's the upcoming June YouthWorks Mission Trip--Mark Koller and Mary Kay Morris are making that happen--along with Libby as fundraiser in chief. I help our youth lead High School JAM -- and have a blast every Wednesday coming up with crazy games. Fun! 
  • The "third Saturday of the month" involvement at the Franklin Avenue Mission, highlighted in our local newspaper last week. (We have permission to make the full article available, download here or ask for a copy if you'd like to see it.) Ron, Betty, Randy, Nicki, their kids and others make it possible for folks from our area to participate there. I am so thankful for Paul Gustafson--because he's the one who got us involved in the first place. Tom Stover, with Paul, founded the mission back in 2010--and Tom will be our guest speaker on our annual meeting Sunday April 26. I am so blessed when I can go along!
  • the Elijah House Prayer, Healing, Transformation workshops (held March thru May and scheduled again for Wednesdays in June & July). Patty, together with Becky, are sharing this with us and there is a hope to launch an Elijah House "School of Ministry 201" this fall. "Elijah House School of Ministry is founded upon principles from Malachi 4: 5-6 and Matthew 17: 11. In the spirit of Elijah, we call God's people to restore the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers and to restore all things. We believe God is passionate to bring restoration to individuals, families, churches, communities, regions and nations."
  • Prayers and Actions on behalf of those in need. Tuesday Evening Prayer is going strong. Diann, Norma Jean, Toni, Becky and I have been joined now, on a fairly regular basis, by Mark (Patty's husband) and Jerry. This same group, with others, have faithfully reached out to several people in need locally, and some participate also in the Franklin Avenue mission. At the moment we're banding together with others to help a single mother and her kids get ready to move. Many hands, praying and helping -- they do good work.
  • Nancy (praise God for her and for John!) began a women's Bible study group on Thursday evenings last fall and it's continuing now; about 10 women have participated from Crossroads and from the community. They are now going through a study called "Becoming A Woman Whose God Is Enough." These women are mighty warriors of prayer and action on behalf of many.
  • For about 3-4 years Don & Robin Begarowicz have invited Crossroads folks and others to their home on Monday evenings for prayer and praise at the Cokato Lake RV Resort and Campground. A couple weeks ago we went through the property praying at the various locations where people gather each summer. For some reason fewer people have been coming on Mondays than when it began, but I still find our time together in prayer and praise to be a great blessing.
  • The Spirit of the Lord has come upon Danielle, Tammy, volunteers at the Cokato Food Shelf and Thrift Store and others to push us to reach out and care for those who might otherwise be forgotten. I have my role in this but there is so much going on that God is clearly in charge! For example, the Lord blessed us to help organize early morning rides to work for Danielle's son John, beginning before Christmas and continuing until a fellow inmate got a job at the same place. I only had to drive once during all that time. Praise God for Mike, Joel, Chuck and Don, all from the wider community!
  • Bonita Garthus has been leading our 3-4 times a year "Meals on Wheels" outreach. What gift you are!
  • Nancy, John, Libby, Diann, Matt, Paul, Randy, Amy, Toni, Brenden, Krista, Ron, and so many others make our Sunday morning gatherings possible with cleaning, serving, audio visuals, worship leading and Adult Bible study facilitation. All is done with a cheerful heart--no one is compelled to serve other than by the willing heart God gives them. Thank you Jesus!
  • Al Sorenson capably leads our church board of directors, Robin keeps great financial records, Miranda gets the board minutes out in a flash and the other board members do the behind the scenes counting and recording of offerings each Sunday. Each one shares scriptures and prayers as we meet together every month.
This morning, at our regular 6:00 AM prayer time we were led through the sixteenth chapter of Romans where the Apostle Paul greets almost 30 Christian leaders by name. In prayer today a sister in the Lord, either Jean or Gina, prayed that we will grow in this model of shared ministry in the future, allowing our leaders to equip us for the Lord's work, so we all become mature in Christ. My hope is that Crossroads will continue some sort of partnership with churches whose ministry model is not only "top down" but has deep respect and enthusiasm for the ways God works among the  MANY uncommon people of God that we find right here in our midst.
For me personally, as far as my pastoral role goes, two major highlights so far this year have been:
  • The preaching series "JESUS" and the previous "The Dangerous Kind" have challenged and blessed me, both in the hours of prayer and study and in the time of presentation when we're together on Sunday mornings. The plan going forward is to finish the "JESUS" series this coming Sunday and then move into a "Holy Spirit" series in May (after our annual meeting April 26 with guest speaker Tom Stover). Pray that the Lord would continue to lead us boldly in His ways as we gather. And, as the Lord leads you, let us know how you have been blessed by what has been shared.
  • Continued ministry with people in need. I am blessed to be one of the trusted "first call for help" people in our area. I've been meeting with many in our area who come alongside elders, low income households, people in crisis, those who suffer addictions, but so far I haven't found anyone who wants to partner with me on this. Pray about this please, and take a look at the "Help! I Need Somebody!" page on our website and the "DC Help" page too. My prayer is that this ministry will be seen to be a calling for Crossroads as a whole, and not just for me personally. Our communities would be less compassionate if Crossroads people were not here to support this work.
I know there are many other aspects to Crossroads ministry that should be highlighted, and I humbly ask that you let me know what I've missed. I haven't even mentioned the wider missions we support in East Africa, South Central Asia, South East Asia and New York City. We try to keep all this updated on our website but I know we fall behind.

I'm looking forward to meeting with the Crossroads board of directors tonight as we pray together about what the way forward will be for us in the months and years to come.

slightly updated 23 April 2015

Monday, April 6, 2015

Look Into It

Earlier last week I saw that someone had posted some pictures on facebook of a church gathering. Many of the pictures included the faces of people who I know and love. I was pastor of that church for 13 years.

As I looked through the pictures a question came to my mind. I wondered whether very many of those folks have a good understanding of the truths that the church they're part of stands for.

I checked that out at the church I'm now part of yesterday by asking who had done "in depth research about the truth of the resurrection." 3 or 4 people raised their hands yes. Not a very high percentage. Probably all churches are about the same?
(I asked that question because I had prepared some paper copies of a piece on "Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ" and didn't have enough copies for everyone. I intended just to give it out to those who hadn't done the study. I had way less copies than I should have. You can find links to it, for reading online or printing, on our "Jesus" series webpage under the April 5 "Look Into It" message. I encourage you to check it out.)
So, if all (or many) churches are the same in this, that is, that they are often populated by people who haven't done the challenging investigative work about their faith, it might be fair to ask if it's really necessary! Do Christians really need to study the basics their faith? Can't they just trust their leaders?

According to Ephesians 4, believers who haven't examined their faith can be tossed around by "every new teaching" instead of being mature and unified "in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God" (Ephesians 4:14). Because of that, relationships and feelings end up in the drivers seat.  Christian believers end up gaining their confidence, even their confidence about the truth of their faith, more from the personal support of their friends than from personal knowledge or "conviction" of the truth. They are reluctant to share the faith boldly because there is an underlying uncertainty in their minds and hearts. They also tend to be drawn into disputes on details instead of focusing on big questions: Is Jesus God? Did Jesus really rise from the dead? Can we trust Him?

Now, though it's true that elders and others who are recognized as leaders bear a special responsibility for knowing things in depth, those leaders and teachers are supposed to help all believers come to mature and intelligent faith (Ephesians 4:11-16). The unity and togetherness of the local church (and beyond) then comes from the truth of God, not from personal relationships. The sad thing is that personal relationship connections can be founded on feelings or faith in carefully crafted lies (myths) just as much as on truth.

Yesterday, at the end of our worship time together, one of our elder women stopped me and said she had never heard a message on the the importance of evidence and truth on Easter Sunday. I wondered if she really remembers everything she's heard on every Easter during her 70 years in the church, but I know that much of what is preached and taught in churches is not really an encouragement for people to investigate truth. It's more often that Easter Sundays are just full of joy in having the flock together.

Pushing believers to study and learn is an important part of what Christian leaders need to be doing, even when it's not popular for them to do so.  That's what we shared yesterday at Crossroads. I encourage you to look into it, but, even more, to look into the truth of God that stands up under the closest examination.


Here's a video resource presented by Gary Habermas that I looked at this week and found it helpful.  The trouble with videos is that they are often convincing because of the speakers, so please be skeptical about this too. Check it out at