Monday, April 30, 2012


People who think they are following God are dangerous.
If they really are following God it's evil that shudders.

I put that as my facebook status today.  What do I mean by that?  Well, throughout the history of the world men (mostly men, but some women too) have acted boldly in the name of God, and, doing so, they refuse to submit to correction or rebuke.  They become a law unto themselves.

But when a man or woman actually is following the Lord God, then only the devil is in trouble.  For God's power truly manifests itself when confident men and women take up spiritual weapons and roll!

Facebook Is Winning

Here it is, the end of April.  I'm finding more pleasure in the little conversations that I can have over on facebook than I am in writing on this blog.  It's fun to feel like there are lots of other folks around who might just chime in or at least read what is written.  And there are others, including my own kids, who write fascinating things on facebook that I chime in on when I can.  The other thing that's gotten in the way of writing here is the continual and mostly pleasant task we've taken on to keep our website and our church facebook page up to date.  That also is something that's less solitary and more community oriented.  My suggestion to any readers of this blog is that you friend me on facebook.  God's peace to you all.

Monday, April 23, 2012

When Helping Hurts

The video below is from the "Generations Radio Broadcast" from a website called "Generations with Vision." I know almost nothing about the interviewer, Kevin Swanson, his ministry or his political or spiritual agenda, but the man Kevin interviews in this broadcast wrote what seems to be an important book called When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor and Yourself.

We played a three minute clip from this interview in worship yesterday during a message entitled "Go Make Disciples."   The video is at  If you would like to see that portion begin at about 10 minutes and 30 seconds into the video. If I have time, later, I might transcribe that part, but, for now, there are other things that need to be done!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

More Learning about Huddles

I don't have much time to write at the moment; however, there is something I'd like to share that has come up in regard to our development as a church, something that impacts me and the rest of our leadership.  What has come up is the idea that involvement in "huddles"* (see below) by people such as myself (a paid staff person) is perhaps better seen as volunteer service to the church or personal spiritual growth than it is as "a part of a job." 

This came up because here at Crossroads we're about to take on a new staff person.***  The question I started to ask is whether being in a huddle should be a part of the position description or not. 

This morning I talked with someone who has been mentoring me in regard to this aspect of ministry (Pastor Per Nilsen of North Heights) and he said, more or less, that he doesn't look at huddle as a "part of work" as much as the way that he, as a pastor, makes a voluntary investment in the lives of his staff.  He doesn't think of it as a part of his work day, but, instead, as a part of his "giving back" to the community and the church.  The expectation that staff people are in huddle is simply a way that a general mandate to all church staff, that is, that all staff are involved in spiritual growth and development.

Please pray for us as we work these things out here at Crossroads.  Please be patient with us as we learn!


* Huddles are not replacements for small groups or any other part of church life.  They are specifically targeted to discipleship and leadership development.  We first encountered the "huddle" concept back in the late fall of 2010.  My memory is that my friend Wayne Murphy loaned the book by Mike Breen called Launching Missional Communities; at the time, as I recall, Wayne at that time told me about "huddles" which are a part of Mike Breen's "3dm" ministry process.**  So, I googled "huddles" and came across a Wikipedia article that, I found out recently, had been written by Mike Breen's 3dm staff.  Since that time that particular Wikipedia article has been modified out of existence but I did print a hard copy, a scan of which you can access in PDF form by clicking here.  For more that has been written on this blog about huddles, click here

** That might have been at the same time that Wayne had met Pastor Per Nilsen in the halls of North Heights Lutheran Church in Arden Hills. 

*** We are, sadly, about to lose our administrative assistant, Veda Davis, and her husband Paul, as they move on to what the Lord has called them to in the next phase of their lives.  They have purchased the "Twin Oaks" resort that they will be running and investing themselves in full time in the area between Brainerd and Lake Mille Lacs.  Oh, how we will miss them!  We are very sad to see them go, though, as I told them already, I don't let go easily and, truly, we will always be family in the Lord.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Running from Surrender?

The following is from Linda Krushke's blog from April 16.

Linda describes herself as "a wife, mother (of a teenager), daughter, sister, sister-in-law, daughter-in-law, friend, Christian, lawyer (recovering), and person who loves life. I’ve experience some difficulties and pain in my life, and am thankful they have made me stronger and shaped who I am."
"Today I want to share a song from [Third Day's] newest CD Move. The name of the song is Surrender." [Scroll the bottom of this post for the song or go to this link -]

"I love the guitar intro to this song – it’s very southern rock. But more important is the message.

"So many people spend their whole lives running from God. They think that surrendering to God is the worst thing they could ever do. Surrender suggests weakness, and no one wants to be seen as weak.

"But the reality is that the only path to true freedom is surrender to the will of God. A person can’t be free when they are on the run from the truth. Running is where true weakness is revealed.

"Are you still running? Do you look in the mirror and wonder how you reached this point in your life? Are you pretending you are fine, when really you’re just dying inside? Are you looking for a solution to the dead end you’ve found yourself in?

"The answer is surrender to a Creator who knows what is best for His Creation."
A BIG part of surrender is asking someone to pray with you. Asking someone to pray WITH you, not just "for" you, is a tremendously honest and humbling act that brings so much healing. Please ask a mature Christian friend to pray with you tonight, in Jesus' name.
Lyrics of the song "Surrender" by Third Day.

When the day began
And you opened up your eyes
No, you didn't recognize
What you were seeing
Then it all came back
You remembered where you've been
Well, it never seems to end
And you're still running

Will you ever change your mind
You're almost out of time

You better give up
Gotta stop running
It's the end of the line
It's time to surrender
Hands up
Turn it around
Fall to the ground
Are you gonna surrender

Now the day is done
And you want to close your eyes
And pretend that you are fine
But you'd be lying
And you want it back
The life that you once had
'Cause inside you find
That you are slowly dying
There is only ONE who deserves our surrender. His name is Jesus. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him. There is glory given through surrender... ask someone to pray with you now!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Crossroads Magic

Building a testimony requires getting beyond your comfort zone.  Whenever you and I (or we) live inside that zone, doing only those things that we can easily do on our own, the "magic," or, better put, the work of God that seems like magic... When we live inside that comfort zone we will not see God at work.  Perhaps there are exceptions to his rule, but this seems like it is the case most of the time.

The first disciples definitely lived outside their comfort zone.  They left everything to follow Jesus (Luke 18:28).  The pegged all their hope on him.  So, then, when Jesus rose from the dead, they were able to give a most powerful testimony, a witness to the extraordinary power of God.

At Crossroads we are doing some things that will help us, bit by bit, to build stronger testimonies in our midst.  One thing we are doing as a church, and that we encourage all our partners to do, is to give away ten percent of our income.  Another thing is that we are intentionally building "Crossroads" into our life together.  Our "members" (also known as "partners") sign a membership agreement for one year and will need to pray each year about what God's call is for them and their families for the year to come.  Finally, we pray about everything before we act.  We trust God to lead.  We are not in control.

These things mean we need to depend on God for our church finances and for our membership.  Instead of first seeing how much we need, first we give a minimum of ten percent beyond ourselves.  Instead of making sure we maintain our membership, we set everyone free to follow Jesus in all of life, even if it means, for a time, worshiping elsewhere according to God's call.  And instead of making our plans, we trust God to lead us as we pray.

Are these things risky?  Absolutely!  Are we always comfortable in this?  I don't think so.  Here we are in a leased building with a new concept of church and "membership" where one of the most important things we do is to pray to a God we cannot see.  Wow!  Some would say we're crazy.  But that's okay.

As we let go of control, we see God at work.  That's when the "magic" of God happens.  Missionaries are supported, people are set free to follow Jesus in all of life, and prayers are answered.  And people testify to the miraculous power of God.

How will you depend on God today, instead of depending on yourself?  You cannot imagine what wonders God will do when we trust in Him.  If you don't have a church, come and be part of ours.  I truly believe you'll be glad you did.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Being A Witness

Last night at huddle we were talking about the second half of the "repent and believe" circle.

Someone mentioned that it is difficult sometimes... difficult actually act on life changes that we know would be good, changes we believe deep down would enhance our witness--changes that would strengthen us in body and soul and spirit--changes that would make us more effective for the kingdom of God.

Sometimes we think changes might be too hard.  Sometimes we can't imagine that the change we believe God is calling us to make will actually make that much of a difference.  So, instead of pursuing the destiny God has for us, we compromise and "settle" for how things are.  Marcus Haug mentioned that Per Nilsen had said we have a choice: "Compromise or Destiny."

This Sunday at Crossroads we'll be pressing into some of Jesus' final words to his disciples while he was still in the flesh here on earth (after his resurrection from the dead).

Jesus told his disciples that they would be witnesses.  "This is what is written," Jesus said:
"The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things." (Luke 24:46-48)
Jesus' first disciples, the ones to whom he is speaking in that particular scripture were "witnesses" indeed!  They saw Jesus in the flesh with their own eyes.

Can you and I be witnesses today?  Well, not in the same way that those disciples did who were blessed by seeing Jesus with their physical eyes.  But we can be a witness to the changes God is working in and among us here and now.  This is a stimulus, I think, to follow our Lord's call in every area of our lives, even when it's making a change that seems truly hard for us.  In fact, it's only when we attempt more than what we are able to do in our own power that we witness the power of God.

For more on the "repent and believe circle" see

Thursday, April 12, 2012

May 23 Partnership Dinner

The Rev. Paul Anderson will be the speaker and prayer leader at Crossroads Community Church's first annual partnership dinner.  The dinner is scheduled for Wedesday evening, May 23, beginning at 6:30 p.m.  Everyone is invited.  After the dinner information about Crossroads will be shared and new members of our Crossroads board of directors will be elected.

Pastor Anderson is director of Lutheran Renewal, a parachurch organization that networks with the body of Christ.  Lutheran Renewal calls people to a believing use of the Holy Scripture, the infallible Word of God; encourages believers in the Lord Jesus to live in dependence upon the Holy Spirit; helps people to be filled with the Holy Spirit in answer to prayer and to use the Spirit's gifts to strengthen the church; challenges individuals and congregations to fulfill their mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit; invites people to Spirit-inspired worship in response to God's grace in Christ.

Paul Anderson was a pastor in California for twenty-five years before he became the Director of Lutheran Renewal in 1995. His vision to raise up the next generation led to the 2001 founding of The Master's Institute, an alternative seminary, and more recently a young adult ministry in his home. He enjoys networking with pastors and facilitating congregational renewal. The Alliance of Renewal Churches was formed in 2002 out of that passion. His most recent books include The Father's Gift and Dare to Dream... which he is still doing with his wife, Karen, and their six children.

Today Paul and Karen are on their way to Finland and Latvia for ministry, and then will be in Africa just before coming to Crossroads.  There is a deep spiritual tie with Paul and the Lutheran Renewal movement that we share at Crossroads.  This will be an opportunity to listen and pray as the Lord leads us together into His future.

Invitations to the Partnership Dinner will be mailed soon.  We do want people to RSVP so we have an idea of how many plates our caterer will bring.  Thank you to members of First Baptist Church of Cokato for their willingness to help serve.  The meal will be a sit-down affair as we do our best to honor one another and the Lord.

God's peace to you today.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Only the Dead Are Raised

I'm looking forward to tomorrow morning.  Praying that there will be miracles of healing and peace given as we come to Jesus. 

The message, based mainly on Mark 16:1-8 will emphasize how there's nothing anyone could do--all the action needed to be taken by God.  And in this life when we recognize this truth and give up any attempt to run our own show or make things happen for ourselves, then the Lord can begin His transforming work.  I borrowed the title Only the Dead Are Raised from an article by Mark Chavez in the current issue of Connections Magazine.

The miracle of the Ressurrection.  It's ALL in God's hands.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Into Your Hands

These are my preparation notes that I wrote in advance of the sermon preached just a few minutes ago at Elim Mission Church, part of the community Good Friday service.  At this service we heard "last words" of Christ, seven preached messages, and sang songs of praise and proclamation.  Speak with the other pastors if you'd like their notes too! 
I love to tell the story of Jesus and his glorious love.  I love to tell this story because I know it is true.  Jesus paid it all!  What wondrous love!

God inspired one of the gospel authors to record these words: Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit.  With these words Jesus entrusts everything into the hands of God His Father.  He entrusts everything into His hands: his body, his soul, his spirit.  He rests the legal case that he has been pressing forward with since His baptism.  The centurion declares the Verdict.  Surely, this is an innocent man.

(Yes, that's true, He is innocent.  He is the only one who is innocent.  Since the beginning there has been only one innocent man.  And the centurion, in a moment of clarity, in a moment of truth--in a moment of clarity that soldier speaks the only part of the truth that he can understand.  There is no hint here that the centurion is a Christian or even a God-fearing believer, but, as it says in Romans 1, God has revealed enough of the the Truth through creation that even sinful, unbelieving human beings can, and should, be able to see that Truth.  And the centurion does see and speak truth when Jesus, surely finished on the cross--when Jesus commits his human spirit and rests his case into the hands of the One Judge of the World, the God and Father of all.)

I said at the beginning that one of the Gospel writers recorded these particular words of Jesus from the cross.  And that is true.  God inspired four Gospels.  No one tells it all.  No one book, no one man or woman, no one human being--even someone who is full of the holy divine Spirit of God--no one can adequately comprehend it or reveal it alone.  What Jesus did on the cross is too deep, too awe-full, too painful, too glorious... the Gospel of John says the whole world could not contain the books it would take to fully describe the work of Jesus Christ.  God continually uses multiple authors, and multiple preachers, and many voices, so the work of God on the Cross can be more fully revealed.  God has given us a standard to judge these voices by--this divinely inspired book is that standard--whatever we speak must be judged there.  It was God's choice to make these wonderful Scriptures to be just as they are.  All Glory to God for his precious written word.

But there are at least two other witnesses to this glorious words of Christ.  These words of Jesus, Father, into your hands I commit my spirit, these words are first found in the Old Testament prophetic books, most particularly in Psalm 31.  Psalm 31 verse 5 is a direct quote from Jesus on the cross, given hundreds of years before the fact.  All praise to God for his excellent word!

The other witness is the one I'd like us to focus particularly on for a moment... and that one is the rest of the New Testament, where God's people are continually laying their case before God, trusting, not in themselves, but, instead, trusting in their Lord Jesus.

Specifically there is a time we all might know about when Stephen, the first Christian to die for his faithfulness to Jesus... there is a time when he spoke these same words, trusting his spirit, trusting his life, resting himself everything he has ever done or failed to do, giving it all to God.  Stephen preaches a marvelous sermon.  He ends with a strong words against those who rejected Jesus and condemned Jesus to death.

He says this:
“You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him — you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.” (Acts 7:51-53)
At that the crowd became furious.  One might imagine the scene.  But then Acts 7 goes on to say:
Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
Then the crowd stopped their ears and rushed at Stephen with loud shouts.  They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.  Acts 7 goes on:
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. (That is, he died.)

He speaks Jesus words of forgiveness and his words of entrusting his life to God... except... now he does not simply rest his case to God the Father, but he trusts his life to Jesus Christ himself... Lord Jesus, he says, Lord JESUS... you, my Lord and my God, I pray that YOU, my beautiful Savior, Son of God, Son of Man... I pray that YOU would receive my spirit... everything I am and all I hope to be... I rest it all in your care.

This is how God desires us to live and die, not trusting in ourselves and our righteousness, to do as Jesus did on the cross, and what Stephen did when he was about to die, to do as we read in First Peter about Jesus:
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.  (First Peter 2:23)
We can trust our Lord for everything... and unless we do we will only have ourselves to depend upon.  And that is a dead end road, truly a dead end, because without our Lord there is no hope.

God has set up the world in such a way that there is always justice. Sin will be punished. The consequence is death.  Take time to read James 2:10 and Revelation 20:11-25.

Nothing can rescue you... except Jesus, risen from the dead. God has provided a way, one way, to take away all of your sins. As we read in First Peter chapter 2:24-25, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.  For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls."

Have you returned? Have you come back to God?  Have you asked him for grace?   Or are you still fighting?
Anything you have or anything you do that gives you spiritual strength outside of a personal relationship with Jesus, who died on the cross for you, anything other than that is an idol, a lie, a trick from hell.  And it will not protect you.

Without Jesus there is no hope. Your sins will follow you until the day you die. And then comes judgment.

But when you surrender to Jesus you will find life, you will find freedom, you will find joy, you will find total and tremendous peace.  Read Revelation 21:1-7.

That's why we have "church."  We hear the promises of God.  We receive grace and mercy, for the first time or for the twelve hundredth time.  We come to surrender, to release control to God.

Then transformation can begin.  No matter who you are or what you've done, the Holy Spirit can take hold of you. You can be remade from the inside out. You do not need to keep living the way you are living today. You can quit hiding, quit pretending, stop being afraid, stop avoiding whatever it is that is most troubling... because the Lord will be with you, he will fight for you, not against you, and you will be his, not just now, but forever and ever. In Jesus' name.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Healing Communion

I woke up this morning and the Lord gave me a "word" (a thought) that needs to be shared before we share communion tonight.  Tonight at Crossroads we, together with others around the world, will share communion (more about that below) and as we do it's important that we consider how it is we are living out the command of our Lord to love one another as he has loved us (John 13).

Jesus gave us that new command on the night when he was betrayed.  Jesus said: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

I think of this in connection with other commands of our Lord.  In Matthew 5:23-24 (see below) our Lord commands us concerning religious rituals, saying that if we are not reconciled with one another, if we remember that our brothers or sisters in Christ have something against us, then it says that we ought to "go and be reconciled" before completing the ritual.  Jesus specifically in that case is talking about giving "a gift at the altar" which might mean giving gifts for ritual sacrifice, but it still applies, I believe to any church practice or "ritual" (such as communion) that we participate in.  Jesus gives particular commands about how we ought to be reconciled with each other in Matthew 18:15.

Then there is the whole chapter 11 of Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, a chapter that has just as much to do with correcting sinful behavior in the Christian community as it does with passing down words that we use most every time we share "communion" together.  It's no mistake that the words "communion" and "community" go together.  If we do not understand or discern that our relationships in the body of Christ, if we do not confess our sins to one another and pray for one another (James 5) there will be a sickness in our church body that cannot be gotten rid of by mere religious ritual, even if that ritual is commanded by our Lord.

So, as we prepare for communion tonight, let us prepare by considering if anyone has anything against us, and then purpose in our hearts, and even tell someone else, that we ARE going to do everything we can to be reconciled with our neighbors, no matter who may be in the wrong.


Millions of Christians will share the Lord's Supper tonight. Today is "Maundy Thursday"* and tonight is the night when Jesus was betrayed.

Millions of Christians hear those words "the night when he was betrayed" regularly.  Millions hear those words from First Corinthians 11 whenever they share the bread and wine at worship, whenever they share this wonderful gift of our Lord that we often call "Holy Communion."

And tonight is that night, the night Jesus was betrayed, the night of the Passover meal, the night when Jesus took the bread and said "this is my body" and then took a cup of wine and said "this is my blood."  He then commanded his disciples to eat and drink these gifts "in remembrance of me."


* The English word Maundy might come from the Latin word mandatum, meaning "mandate." If so, the name Maundy would come from a Latin translation of Jesus' words in John 13 ("Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos") meaning "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you."  Others theorize that the English name "Maundy Thursday" arose from "maundsor baskets" or "maundy purses" of alms which the king of England distributed to certain poor at Whitehall before attending Mass on that day. Thus, "maund" would be connected to the Latin mendicare, and French mendier, to beg.1


Matthew 5:23-24 "...if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift."

First Corinthians 11:27-32 "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.  But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.  But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world."

James 15:16 "...confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed..."


A few weeks ago at huddle (Crossroads Huddle #1) we looked at how Confession and Forgiveness fits into the Relationship Triangle (see at right).  It's often easier for Christian believers to confess their sins and receive forgiveness from God than it is for us to share mutual confession and forgiveness with one another in the family of God, that is, in our church and personal family relationships.  We do need to pay attention to all of our relationships, and share honest confession and forgiveness with one another.  If we do not, communion will not bring the health and healing designed and desired and indeed commanded by the Lord. 


One more thought... Jesus washed his disciples feet as a way of enacting the command "Love One Another." Not only does this demonstrate love and forgiveness, it also shows such kindness. Gentle consideration for one another is, therefore, a part of the Christian life, caring for others to the point of doing things for them that they could easily do for themselves.

This brings to mind part of what we focused on last Sunday, where we have God's Word from Philippians chapter 2 about considering others as more important than ourselves and putting their interests above our own convenience and our own desires and wishes.  This means just doing kind things for others who are a part of my intimate circle (as Jesus' disciples were for him).  For example, it means paying attention to the desires of my wife (or husband) and adjusting things in my life to accommodate them even if I don't personally think they are very important, as long as I can do that without compromising my relationship with God and the truth to which God has called me.

Jesus not only did profound things for his disciples and friends, he showed that caring in simple, caring acts and elevated them to sacred significance.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Cross and Obedience

Once again today we had a technical issue and the morning worship and message audio weren't recorded.  I saw someone taking photos... and that was great 'cause we had a lot of fun with palm branches... but no recording.  So here you have some notes from today's message.  Prior to the message we talked about how the people of God had been dominated for so long and that there was a promise, from Zechariah 9, about how God would save them when their king would come riding on a "colt, the foal of a donkey."  So Jesus chose to come into the city, fulfilling the prophecy but also coming in a way that the people could understand and celebrate!  Salvation was near!

Anyway, here are my notes... you might read Mark 1:1-10; Zechariah 8:8-17; Philippians 2:1-11.  These notes have not been revised since I wrote them on Friday night at the hermitage, so they aren't exactly what was shared at worship this morning... it's the best we've got.

I hope you can come and be with us on Thursday for communion on the night Jesus was betrayed, then on Good Friday and Easter.  For times and locations go to


What a wonderful thing Jesus has done for us. He hasn’t only saved us from violent foreign armies…

(And he has done that! We are to be thankful to God for every good thing, including for the political and social peace we enjoy; I mean, we’re not afraid right now that another nation is about ready to invade us, at least not this week… )

But Jesus hasn’t saved us only from death by sword or nuclear weapon; he has also saved us from the power that would turn us into our own worst enemy. He has saved us from sin. Praise you, Jesus Christ!

How did he save us? Philippians 2 tells the story.

He saved us by coming from heaven to earth, by coming and being one of us, and then by being obedient to God… even unto death.

Jesus was obedient.

Have you considered this truth?

Jesus, who had been the creator of all things from the beginning of time; Jesus, the all-knowing, forever-living, always reigning King of Creation… Jesus became obedient.

Let’s look again at those verses from Philippians 2 about Jesus…
“Your attitude,” he’s speaking of you and me here, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped…”
that means it wasn’t something for him to hang onto or get the most out of for himself… verse 7 “but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness; and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.”

Jesus became obedient.

He became obedient in the big things and in the little things.

Consider the way he chose to come into the capital city of Israel on the week of his death.

He chose to come into Jerusalem in a way that the common people would get excited about.

They knew the promise of God in Zechariah.

They knew because there was nothing they wanted more than to have their freedom,
to be set free from the oppression of the Roman Empire,
to stop being servants of these foreigners,
to find hope for themselves and for their children,
to not need to be slaves anymore.

There was nothing they wanted more
and when someone who seemed like a good leader came out of the mass of the people, hope would rise in their hearts. Some would follow this “Messiah” thinking that perhaps this was the time when the Lord would restore and save his people, and they could become their own free country once more.

I honestly don’t know what it is like to live under oppression.

We have a very good country that we live in.

But this is not true everywhere. In so many places people are still horribly taken advantage of.

Even here in the United States there are many who are illegally held as slaves… We heard about that on Freedom Sunday a few weeks ago. And if that is too hard to relate to, I know many of you know women and children who are trapped in homes where there is abuse and violence, or threats of violence, where power and control is used to keep women and children trapped. And there are men too who suffer in this way.

But Jesus wants all of those who are trapped and in bondage to know that he is coming to save them, to rescue, them to set them free. So Jesus, obediently, Jesus obediently gets a colt to ride on, a young donkey, or as they used to say, a young ass… and he obediently rides into the capital city in a way that the common people know is a sign… they know this is a sign… they have treasured the promise for centuries… someone would come riding on a donkey… riding, not walking, riding through the gate and the streets of Jerusalem, one who was righteous and having salvation and freedom in his hands.

Over and over again, throughout his earthly life, Jesus shows this quality of obedience. Even in what seems to be the most rebellious time of his life, when he left his parents and stayed behind in Jerusalem, he was doing that in obedience to His Real Father, for Joseph was not his real father, God was. And so it is true for us when we come to the Lord. The true commandment of obedience is not to our mom and dad. The true commandment of obedience is to God.

And Jesus was obedient when the Holy Spirit drove him out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil after his baptism. He was obedient to the Word of God that had been spoken to him, the Word of God that told him that he was indeed God’s beloved Son. He was not rebellious and didn’t need to show off his credentials to the devil. He would not obey anyone except his Father God.

There’s a verse in the Bible that says this, these are the words of Jesus: Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing, for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. (John 5:19)

And because Jesus is obedient, all the way to the cross, where he gives his life for us, we are set free. We are set free not only from abusive men and women and occupying armies, we are set free not only from people who would take advantage of us by making us their slaves—the Lord inspires brave men and women all over the world to stand up against abuse and oppression and slavery of all kinds—but most of all, the Lord sets us free from the actual evil behind the abusers and oppressors and slavers. The Lord sets us free from sin and the power of the devil. For just as in the Bible, the evil ones in the world today are just symbols and front men for spiritual darkness and the powers that threaten us every day.

Even when we are free from the oppression that comes upon us from outside ourselves… and don’t get me wrong, human beings inflict horrible cruelty on one another so often… but even when we get free from that we can still be in bondage.

Andria Jasper recently let us know that through the love and care of her ministry in Thailand that some young women are getting out of prostitution. But she asked us to pray for a particular young woman who is so tempted to go back into that darkness because, even though she is exploited and taken advantage of there, she gets more money and feels more glamorous than just being a waitress. And I know of people who are set free from drugs and who are thankful but long for the forgetfulness and false peace that drugs gave them. And I know of other kinds of bondage, horrible, ugly traps that women and men go back to even after being set free.

Why? Because there is an inner oppressor, a spiritual warden, a very real prison inside our minds and souls and spirits. The old confession of sin says: We are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.

We cannot free ourselves, but that does not mean we are condemned to stay in bondage our whole lives.

Jesus has come to save us!

In another church nearby a man who was being asked to lead worship said he could not do it because he said it was wrong, after receiving Jesus as his Savior, to say anymore that he was in “bondage to sin.”

He says, and I agree with him, that we who are being saved are no longer in bondage to sin.

We can still sin, but now, on this side of what Jesus has done for us, after Jesus has taken on our sin and has died on the cross for us, we are no longer in bondage. We are now dead to sin and alive to Christ Jesus. We can choose to sin, but we are no longer bound to do it. Hallelujah!

And that’s why God speaks to us with these words from Philippians chapter 2: If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:...

Here the Lord is saying to us, that, once we receive Jesus, we can now CHOOSE.

Jesus says:
Now that we have been we been set free because of what I have done for you, taking your sin upon myself --and dying in your place…
--now that you have come to me to have your burden lifted,
--now, the Lord says-- choose now who you will serve.
Choose, as Jesus did.
Have the same attitude as Jesus did.
Choose to obey… choose to be loving, choose to be one in spirit and in purpose, choose to honor others, choose to look to the interests of others, not only to your own self.

Our Lord calls us today to consider this call in every area of our lives. At home, being a servant, being loving, being respectful, even considering saying “ok” to what someone else wants you to do even if you don’t see the point to it… as long as it’s not against God…maybe it is a bit hard, maybe it is inconvenient, maybe you and I feel that it’s unfair… but, at home, doing more than our share… that’s a challenge to me that the Lord has impressed upon me during my prayer time this week… the Lord also calls us to be loving and not domineering toward our children… to balance discipline and love, to consider them as worthy even when they are not, for that is what the Lord has done for us.

The same thing goes in our workplaces. How many of you work with bosses or supervisors who are hypocrites, saying one thing and doing another? How many of us who have employees just don’t understand why our people can’t follow the simplest instructions? Have you considered how the Lord Jesus adjust your behavior and attitudes at work? “In humility consider others better than yourselves”?

And what about in our neighborhoods? And among our friends? Can we be compassionate and caring instead of being judgmental? And our fellow and sister church members? Can we love one another and be one in spirit and purpose? Can we quit holding back our loyalty?

Here’s the thing—we can talk all day about Jesus, but unless we act in such a way that other people recognize that we are loving, see that we are caring, until our actions and attitudes show that we are Jesus followers, all the words in the world will not convince anyone of anything. We’ll just be looked upon as people who are trying to get more members for our particular Christian club.

But when we start to know the real people around us, when we “get” what it is that they are suffering, what it is they are dealing with, and when we do something that is unmistakably Christ-like, then, chances are, there is a lot better chance that they will be able to see the freedom Jesus wants to bring.

Jesus was obedient. He followed what his Father told him to do. The Father had it planned… he would speak to the people in the language they knew, by coming into town on a young donkey. A silly thing… his feet probably were scraping the ground… but the people saw, and they knew, here was someone who was coming to set them free.

Let’s pray that we can follow the directions of our Father, in His Word, being loving, tender, compassionate, considering others more important than our own tastes and our own convenience. Let us humble ourselves so that others will know our Lord, receive him, and be set free.

Prayer Time
  • For freedom for those in bondage, for the 19 year old girl and others in Andria’s ministry… for those suffering under painful and abusive relationships… for those in countries where there is no freedom…
  • That people would say yes to Jesus during this holy week. That we would bring others with us to share in the depths of Jesus’ love. That we would be obedient to Jesus’ command to make disciples of ALL nations, to leave no one out.
  • That we would hear our Father’s voice and obey it. That God would bless us with a spirit of boldness and humility, that we would not just do what others want us to do but that we would obey our Lord.
  • That we follow Jesus’ path of obedience and servanthood even when it seems as though we are getting nowhere, even when we are persecuted and rejected, even, if we need, to be obedient unto death.
  • That we would keep the promise of triumph and resurrection before us on those days and in those times when we can only see the cross, for the cross leads to joy.

Today We'll Pray

Just a quick note about one sign of the Lord's presence among us. 

Some of the plans we have been laying were thrown for a loop today because it turns out that at the same day and time we had set for our Partnership Dinner (Sunday, May 20) there is a big high school fine arts event.  We didn't know anything about this... it wasn't on the main school calendar... it was hidden away on a particular teacher's webpage... but in any case neither I nor any of our board members knew about the conflict until I announced the May 20 date at church today...  then several families who have high schoolers said that wasn't going to work. 

I was like "UGH"... how are we going to reschedule this?  And I still don't know.  We've got a caterer, volunteer helpers from another church and a speaker all lined up for that date.  And now it's not going to work.  Double "UGH."  UGH UGH.

So I went over to break the news to the member of the board of directors who had arranged the caterer.  I was thinking, uff, I hate to be the bearer of this news and I hate the thought that this is all getting confused after we had worked to make this date work.  But my dear friend, the member of the board who had made the arrangements, she said she had already heard and that she had said, when she first heard it, well, we're just going to have to pray about that.  We can't do anything today.

So wise.  I was scurrying.  Now I'm saying, okay... let's just pray... Let's breathe and let God work.

I'm not saying it still won't be difficult to reschedule all of this... but, honestly, if the Lord can bring life from death, why can't he take care of this hiccup.  He will, and we'll need to humble ourselves and make changes... but, in the process, maybe we can learn to trust God a little more. 

I have so much to learn, and I'm so thankful for this board member and all my Crossroads partners who help me along the way.