Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Help We Need

This morning we were blessed by the ministry of Gina Mueller, director of student ministries at North Heights Lutheran Church.  What a gift!  Thank you Gina!  I didn't take notes today, and I haven't gone back to check my memory against the recording*, but what one of the things she shared that I've been thinking about since is that the Christian life is very difficult unless we have the Holy Spirit living in us, helping us to delight in God's ways.  God's commands, for example, to love enemies and forgive every offense--those commands are too hard for us without help.  Without the help we need.  Without the Holy Spirit living and active in our lives.

Another thing that is too difficult for us without the Holy Spirit's help... another thing that is just impossible without God's direct intervention in our inmost being is the telling of truth, the utter honesty God requires, the transparency of life that bears good fruit.  Without the Holy Spirit, we live lies and coverups.  Without God's power in me, without regularly coming to him with my brothers and sisters in prayer, asking to be directed and filled with Jesus, I will just pretend to be strong.  But when I am honest enough to ask for the help I need, I can live and be really real every day.  What freedom and peace that brings.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth.  We'll share more about this next Sunday at Crossroads.  I encourage you to come and bring friends.  Come ready to be real.  Come ready to be filled.

* go to the Crossroads worship page at for the recording.

Friday, January 27, 2012

God Is On A Mission

Those who follow this blog will note that I've written less of late.  I probably wouldn't write tonight either except that, during one of the many times in the last few days that Toni and/or I have spent with people lately, I was asked to make something clear.  That "something" had to do with the death of his/her mother or father.  This grieving son/daughter had heard some people say that "God must have wanted" their beloved parent and that "God only takes the best."

My heart broke when I heard this grieving person share that story.  The saddest part for me is that of the many people he or she heard saying those things, that is, that God must have wanted their parent and that God "only takes the best"... she or he heard those things said by people from my church.

I wish it wasn't true that Christians would say such things.  And maybe this dear grieving soul just thought he or she heard that.  Or maybe the people from my church were just repeating what they had heard said by others without thinking.  But when I met with this grieving soul I said this: God did not "take" your mother/father, at least not until he or she was already dead, or perhaps when things were just so hard for him or her that death--for a believing Christian--perhaps things were so hard for him or her in life that death was the most loving and caring thing that could happen.

But God did not, and does not, reach down and zap people who are healthy and strong and "take them" to be with him in heaven.  God's mission on this earth is to rescue and redeem and transform and save.  God does not "want" people and then come and grab them away.  What a horrible thought!  It's the devil who steals and kills and destroys.  Don't put the devil in God's place, and don't put God in the place of evil.  God is on a mission for good, to save the earth and its people from the pain and suffering that we have brought upon it.  God is not prowling around seeing who he can devour.  Let's make that clear.

But I have to admit that we Christ followers haven't always been very clear on what's really going on in this world.  We don't have a worldview that fits all that well with the reality that we find in the Bible.  The truth is that God did make this world good--and God put human beings on earth to be God's representative rulers here.  But we human beings did the worst thing possible.  We turned this wonderful creation over to the one who is hell bent to destroy it.  And ever since then we human beings have been the devil's slaves--or we would be--if God had not chosen to keep loving us, to put a plan in place to bring the whole planet back to him--back to good.

The Bible is the story about how God has been going about this mission.  And when we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are then rescued from the devil's army and are made into his own, his people, his chosen.  And now we are here as God's warriors of love and joy and peace and healing and resurrection.  We are here to bring good news to the broken and to every sinner.  God's love for you does not stop, it does not give up.  And we will not give up on you either.  We won't just say "oh, those terrible things that happen, they must be God's plan."  No.  We will stand with the grieving and say that God has a better plan, a plan for life, and though there be defeats from time to time, God will bring victory in the end.

That's all I have time to write now.  I'm sure this is not written all that well.  But I wanted to get it out there so my friend will know the truth.  God does not "take us out."  God desires life and love for us.  Not death.  Let's call on God to bring healing and resurrection now!  And let's grieve honestly when death does come, and then believe with them until the final victory is won.  What a wonderful resurrection morning that will be!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Holy Spirit Right Now

The picture above, and the words that follow below are from a young woman named "Jillian" who says this about herself:
i am a twenty something girl in a season of life i didn't see coming. Administrative Assistant by day, youth helper/ creative ministry co-leader/ artist by night. normal girl on the weekends. :) God is leading me down some interesting paths and i'm just trying to follow where He's leading. and no matter what comes up or what crazy turns He takes me on...i'm just learning to trust that its all a part of the plan...God's plan.
Our Father God is leading us also, through His Holy Spirit.  We don't know just how or where, but we are moving ahead in faith.

Here's what Jillian wrote last May. You can see the original at

this is a drawing i did one night...
after reading the verse about the Holy Spirit
- and how its like the one can see where its going.
and i feel like i have spent a lot of time waiting...
waiting for...........something.
when i first realized that God had a plan for me,
that i could actually be led by Him into a life that i was specifically designed for -
it was one of the most earth-shattering moments of my life.
like - whoa!  God has a plan for ME?  i need to know what it is!

and so i started praying for it.
i started looking for it.
i was desperate to know what it was...
and while God didnt lay out every moment for the rest of my life for me,
He honored that desperation and started to reveal Himself to me. 
i started to get to know Him, really get to know Him and not just "God" as a religion.
and my world was rocked again.
i mean - God was real, He had a heart and He was really listening to me. 
He wanted to interact with me.

but somewhere along the line i got so focused on the future -
and i entered into the mindset of
"tell me what i am working toward,
tell me what you are going to do for me, through me"... 
and i stopped being open to what Jesus wanted to say,
what He wanted me to do right now -
and i just "listened" for what i wanted to hear.

and to be honest - i am still working on listening for right now.
its so hard to stay focused on the steps right in front of us...
i am absolutely a person who wants to know the end, the goal -
and i'll figure out the best way to get it done from there.
but God's got different plans for me.

as HE passed along,
He noticed a man blind from his birth.
His disciples asked Him, Rabbi,
who sinned, this man or his parents,
that he should be born blind?
Jesus answered,
It was not that this man or his parents sinned,
but he was born blind
in order that the workings of God
should be manifested (displayed and illustrated) in him.
John 9: 1-3

and Jesus went on to heal the man's eyes.
he walked away being able to see, shouting God's praise.
this man's life didnt make sense...but God had a plan. 
that His glory might be revealed through his life.

one day i was having some quiet time and God told me to not try so hard
to figure out how to get to the "end goal"
or even figure out all the details of what the "goal" might be - 
but instead,
pay attention to where i am,
where i've been,
what opportunities are presenting themselves...
because all of that has been shaping and is shaping me
into the person God designed,
to be prepared to fit into the life God has planned.
and instead of spending my time waiting and wondering -
i need to embrace every opportunity that comes up,
to learn from them and let them do their work in molding me
so i'm ready for whatever God wants to do.
that I might be in such a position
that the workings of God should be
manifested (displayed and illustrated) in

not that we shouldn't dream or have goals
- but we can't get so focused on 20 years from now
that we miss the incredibly valuable lessons this time was made a part of our lives for...
He's preparing us so that His workings can be displayed in the best way possible.

i read that verse in John tonight and i was reminded again of that quiet time.
i am trying to learn to not worry so much about the far future, even the near future...
i have no control over it, and thats the way i want it -
but my flesh wants to take over every now and then.
like when i want a husband RIGHT NOW,
or when i want to be traveling or doing missions someplace different,
or when i want to have an art ministry right now that is doing big things -
leading people to Jesus all over the place...
i just have so many huge dreams and i get so restless and there are times i dont think i can handle waiting for them to be in full swing one more second...
but its at those times when He gives me reminders like that verse.
and i just need to take a deep breath and let go...
God has perfect timing for all of those things.
and He has them set up so that when the dreams He gives us DO come to pass - 
His workings will be manifested and displayed for ALL to see.
and my wanting to hurry them and do them my way will never be as good...
He demands that we not settle for anything less than the best.
so that leaves me with being patient.
and learning all i can now from where He has me - so that i'll be ready
for whatever He has planned...

He's got plans and dreams for ALL of His children.
what are the dreams He has for you?
what can you see Him doing in your life right now to prepare you for what He has for you?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What God Wants To Do

God wants to give you a new heart.

God wants to make a change in the innermost part of you.  In the part of you that makes decisions.  In the part of you that is "in charge" of your life.

When God does that there are sometimes changes on the outside.  You might act differently in some ways.  Some of those changes may be noticed.  Some may not.  But the point is not to change the outside.  The point is to know God's love on the inside.

That's what it means to get a "new heart."

We'll preach on this topic on Sunday at Crossroads.  You're invited.  Bring a friend.

Monday, January 16, 2012

No Wallpaper

Yesterday at about 5:30 a friend called and asked if he could stop by for a visit.  After he'd been here for awhile he said that he'd hesitated before calling because he was concerned that we would think we had to feed him.  We assured him that it was just fine.  And yes, we did share supper with him.  Of course!  Why wouldn't we?

There's no need to pretend!  We're glad to have you stop by whenever, even if it is at the time of a meal.

The friend who stopped by his the son of a man who worked as a wallpaperer for many years.  He got out of the business in the 1980s, just before wall paper fell out of fashion.  Now my friend's dad is quite old and my friend does what he can to take care of him and his mother.  Both of them need help getting to doctor appointments and taking care of other chores and my friend is glad to help.  It's a part of honoring his father and his mother.

God is not in the wall-paper business.  An advantage of wall paper is that it hides imperfections.  But God desires honesty.  He wants to deal with us as we really are.  He does not want us to paper over or otherwise hide our real selves.  He wants to bring real healing, real peace, real love.

So please let someone know what it is you need.  Don't hesitate to call, even if it is during a meal time.  The Holy Spirit calls us to respond to the real cries of the heart even if it is inconvenient.  The Holy Spirit leads us to want to be there for you.  At least we can pray with you and let you know you are loved.

Please don't pretend.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Time to Fill

Grand sanctuary.  This photo doesn't do it justice.  I sat in there today for a time between bus driving duties. Stained glass windows to the right and left showed prophets and apostles of times past.  I'm sure much good ministry is done in places like this but today it felt like a museum.  Does God not speak through to and through prophets and apostles today?  Does the Lord truly desire crowds to sit in rows, facing front?  Is this the church?  Is it not the presence of God in the hearts and minds and actions of people abandoned to His will?

The Holy Spirit is the dunamis (power) of heaven.  How is the the Holy Spirit active in your life today?  Have you prayed and asked to be filled with this power of God?  When you are filled, what are the chances you will be satisfied with sitting in a row?  It may be unsettling, but when because we know the Holy Spirit is the same that empowered Jesus, whose ministry was love love love love love love, maybe we can take a chance.  Perhaps you can ask God to bless you with that power in a special way this week.  Ask God to reveal himself.  It's time.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Together at the Crossroads

Yesterday at Crossroads we played a little game that ended with the formation of small groups.  These little groups will be getting together at least once, some during the week, some on Sunday, to talk together and pray about the direction the Lord is calling us to in 2012.

The illustration at right shows a single person "standing at the Crossroads."  Fortunately, we are not alone!  We have others to stand with us as we begin this new year.  Being in these small groups, we will get a sense that we are with one another going forward.  And that is a very good thing.

So what will the small groups do in just one meeting?  As we always do in times of decision, we will pray and seek God's will.

As the the banner hanging over our Crossroads fellowship hall says (from Jeremiah 6:16), we will ask "where the good way lies" so we will find "rest for our souls."

The groups were formed with no preparation.  That was intentional.  We are re-forming our church body now at the beginning of this year.  That's a good thing because some of us don't know one another well, or we are focused on small groups of friends.  Some of the groups might feel a bit awkward, but I believe as they get together to pray they will find they do indeed share much in common.   

I'm contacting the groups little by little to share a bit of guidance as to how they might spend their hour or half hour together.  Besides perhaps getting to know one another a bit better, the main agenda will be prayer.  No one will be required to pray aloud, though some in each group will do so.  Before or after the prayer time, we'll encourage one another to share and seek how God wants to use us to reach out to children, youth and young adults, our neighbors in need, our elders and the handicapped, in prayer, in education, in practical help.

Though meeting together just once may not seem important, it is importnat to take time to ask "where the good way lies" instead of just contining to do things as we always have.  When we keep going in the same direction for too long, when we continue to serve in a way we always have, we can become tired and disheartened.

Coming to the Crossroads with others will encourage us to find ways to follow our Lord cheerfully and energetically, using the gifts and talents God has given us.  Perhaps together we will find that our Lord is calling us in a direction we never expected.  Let's pray and ask the Lord what he would say..


On another note, I found out this morning that we have an opportunity this coming Sunday to reach out and help Marie Fitzsimmons serve food at First Baptist Church on the occasion of the retirement of Pastor Dan Swanson.  This will be on Sunday, Oct. 15, from noon - 2:00 p.m.  Four of us from Crossroads have already decided to help and we could use a couple more.  If you can help, and want to do so, please contact Bob or Mary Kay Morris

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Learning to Be Church Together

The following is an email that went out a few moments ago.  If you'd like to be on the Crossroads email list, please let us know.
To: Crossroads Friends

Good evening all -

Thanks to everyone who came to worship today!  I hope you had a sense of the Lord being present with us in the Bible study/Education hour, in the worship time, and in the potluck following.  Thank you so much to Mark Koller for the message he shared from the heart of the Lord.  We are learning to be church together and for that I am truly grateful!

Praise God for the GOOD NEWS he gives us to share in Jesus' name.  Praise Him for his HOLY SPIRIT that he pours out on us so generously when we are open to Him.

At the potluck we had some fun considering how God may be calling us through the desires he has placed into our hearts to bless children, youth & young adults, elders, and the wider community... We played a "forced choice" game and then formed some little groups that set a time to get together

If you weren't able to be with us today but would like to be invited to a group, talk to someone you know who was there or let me know and we'll connect you up.

If you are a part of one of the small groups that is planning on meeting in the next couple weeks, to pray and share about how we will be reaching out and sharing the good news, would you please send me a note letting me know who might be in your group and when you plan to meet?

When you get back to me, I will share some suggestions for prayer and possible action for your group.  Remember, there is no obligation for your group to meet more than once.  Remain open, however, to what the Lord may choose to do in your midst.

Please don't hesitate to share questions or any words of wisdom you might have.  God is calling us to be church together.  Let's share what the Lord lays on our hearts.  As we heard in worship in December, the Lord is calling each of us (each of you) to "Use Your Voice."  Here's a link to the sermon preached on that subject

God's peace to all, in Jesus' name,

Pastor Steve Thorson


Friday, January 6, 2012

First Call for Help

The Dassel-Cokato area could use a personal and prayerful and local "FIRST CALL FOR HELP." This would be similar to what is now known as "2-1-1" but, as I said, it would be personal and prayerful. 

I'm beginning to work on this and would appreciate your input.  Today I sent an email to the other local pastors to see who might be interested in working on this.

Many people in our area do not know who to call.  We can help.  We can refer people to practical resources, we can pray, and we can introduce people to the #1 helper.  See Psalm 54:4 where it says "Surely, God is my helper."  So true.  Often the Lord helps through us.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Partnership In Process

"I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3)

I'm starting this on Wednesday afternoon.  I won't finish it now but I at least want to get it started.  There are so many things to do that some things just need to get started and published, even if they're not completely ready to go.  I'm going to publish this and then come back to it later.

I'm not driving bus on Wednesday afternoons these days and that's a good thing.  It lets me focus a bit more in the middle of the week on Crossroads stuff--plus I get to spend a bit more time working alongside Veda, our administrative assistant.

Lots to be thankful for!  I'm thankful too that we've now got 15 official members at our church for 2012.  Only 15?  How can that be?  Well, if you've been around Crossroads, or if you have been reading this blog, you'll know that we're intentionally re-forming our church now at the beginning of the year.  We're still organized... we still have a board of directors and probably about 100-200 people who think of Crossroads as "our church," but in order to be members we need to sign up each year.  Marc Keith and his family were the first to sign on January 1.  I was next... and others are coming along.

Here's what was said about it on Sunday:
this is the part i'll need to add later...
i was just called to help with something...
off I go... be back later!

We're looking forward!  Next Sunday Mark Koller will be doing the main message.  After worship we're planning a potluck... it's a "potluck with a purpose."  The details are being worked out, but in any case if you think you might have an interest in what God is doing through Crossroads these days I'd encourage you to come this Sunday, hear Mark's message and stick around for lunch.

Check the Crossroads website for a bit more.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Learning from Business

Wisdom from the business world can sometimes help the church.  Take a look at the item below from a businessman and see how it might apply to the church.  My daughter Naomi shared this recently on LinkedIn.

At Crossroads we might think about this as we support our church partners and friends. Just substitute the word "church" for "company" and "work" and the word "partner" or "church member" for "employee."  Those who work in business, of course, can just think of this directly connected to your workplace.
Culture Isn't Costly
By Fast Company Expert Blogger Arshad Chowdhury Tue Dec 27, 2011

    Successful company culture can make the difference between a workplace people dread and one they brag about. You don’t have to have a Google-sized budget to offer great culture. Many culture-changing initiatives have no direct costs to the company. In fact, when properly executed, culture-improving initiatives can lower company costs in both the short and long term.
    I’ve spent the past 10 years learning about and implementing solutions to make work better for employers and managers alike. I’ve touched hundreds of companies large and small and have seen many distinct cultures. Based on this experience I offer these simple initiatives to encourage a peaceful, productive workplace that people love.
Make Rules for the 95%, Not the 5%
    Most of your employees are hard working, motivated, and professional. Workplace rules should be designed to give maximum autonomy to the vast majority of your workers. Don’t burden people with rules designed to control the 5% of employees who are constitutionally unmotivated or undisciplined. From dress code to work hours to meeting attendance, fewer rules in the workplace are better.
    For one, fewer rules can start saving you money right away. Get rid of expensive firewalls blocking Facebook and YouTube. At the same time, access to these tools can help your employees research and network faster.
Celebrate Going Home Early
    It’s not true that the longer you work, the more work you will get done. According to a 2010 study, flexible work hours can lead to increased retention and productivity. You can quickly improve culture by focusing on work output instead of hours of input. If you’re going to leave the office early, go ahead and announce to your coworkers that you just closed a mega account, sent out that TPS report, and are now heading for the golf course. There’s no shame in going home after hitting a home run.
Stop Swearing
    Not all rules are bad. Implement a "no swearing" rule today: no swearing about or at your coworkers or customers. By cutting out swearing, you will elevate discourse to expression of thoughtful ideas instead of base emotions. An environment where people swear at one another can quickly turn toxic. The no swearing rule can save you millions by avoiding costly lawsuits where disgruntled employees--with good reason--strike back.
Cultivate Experts
    Imagine if every one of your employees was an expert in what they did; if, no matter how mundane their subject, they could teach it with passion. The benefits to you, your company, and your employees would be profound. Encourage people to become experts by having them research best practices in their field and share those with their colleagues on a regular basis. At my companies, we encourage book clubs for every level of employee. We incur cost here by buying every book club member an e-book. The $79 e-book, however, pays for itself twice: once when employees brag about their incredible work environment with their coworkers, and again when employees learn to do their jobs better through ongoing learning.
Talk About the Future
    Start taking people out for coffee, one at a time, to ask them where they want to be in five and 10 years. Armed with this information, help them achieve those goals, even if the goals aren’t related to your company. If an employee tells you he or she wants to be an actor, support them when they want to take acting classes. This way, in the time that they are with you, they’ll be loyal, committed, and thankful for the support.
Let Employees Manage Their Own Energy
    Our metabolism is guided by our bodies’ circadian rhythms. We all experience peaks and troughs of energy throughout the day, and the highs and lows differ for each person. One-third of your employees experience a dip in energy so steep that between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. each day they need to nap. So let them nap. According to a NASA study, a nap of just 26 minutes can boost productivity by 34%.
Recognize Your Team Every Day
    People don’t work for just money. They work for recognition, too, so don’t deprive your employees of this vital form of compensation. They are working to build your company every day. As such, give them specific words of thank-you the moment the occasion calls for it. You should be thanking each person you directly work with at least two times a week. As my mentor Chester Elton (coauthor of The Carrot Principle) says, reward behavior you want to see repeated.

Author Arshad Chowdhury is the founder of ClearGears, which powers real-time performance reviews for business

Sunday, January 1, 2012

God's Word in 2012

The following, written by Anthony Stephens of Crystal Springs, Mississippi, on Dec. 30 and Dec. 31 are from his blog "The Way I See It."
... Many people are making “new year’s resolutions.” These resolutions cause great frustration for many. One of the resolutions that I’ve heard before from Christians is that they are going to finally read through the Bible this year.

Over the past couple of years this resolution has grown stranger to me. Why is it that Christians will say that they believe and trust the Bible yet they don’t know what it says? How do they know what God says and desires if they do not take the time to use the most plain revelation of Himself?

I have tried to make it a top priority to read through the entire Bible each year over the past few years. I have used different methods at different times. One of the best ways I’ve found is to read through the Bible chronologically. One of the best tools I have found to help with this is the One Year Bible Plan. They have two great plans: one that is chronological an another that is just passages from different genres of the Bible. There are also great plans that can be found at

I would encourage every Christian to read through the Bible this year, not as a resolution but as a way to know the heart of God more intimately.

...I’d like to share some reasons that you (and I) should get into God’s word – the Bible – more.

  • The Word is our provision. Deuteronomy 8:3 reminds us that man lives off every word that comes from God’s mouth.

  • The Word is protection against sin. Psalm 119:11 reminds us that as God’s Word has root in our hearts, then sin has a hard time taking root.

  • The Word is our guide.Psalm 119:105 So many are looking for direction in life. The Bible is a directional light for us pointing us toward God’s desires.

  • The Word is eternal. Isaiah 40:8 tells us that though everything else fades, dies, or corrupts, the Word of God stands firm and true forever.

  • The Word is the clearest picture we have of God. John 1:1-5, 14 shows that the Word is God and became flesh in the person of Jesus. It also shows us that the Word is personal.

  • The Word is alive. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that God’s Word is alive. It will speak to the specific needs of our lives just like a good friend.

  • With reasons such as these, what will keep you and me from one of the greatest treasures mankind has ever known – the Bible?