Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The 2014 Adventure

NOTE ADDED JAN. 10, 2014 - Technical issues have made it impossible for us to access the audio recording of Jan. 5 worship and message.  You can download the preparation notes written in advance by clicking here (PDF file).  If you want a printed copy just let me know - 763-291-3499 or leave a message at church 320-286-2100.



On this last morning of 2013 I've been up at the church building, just being here on the last day of the year in case someone wants to stop by or call.  We announced that the office would be open today from 9-11 but Kristine asked if she needed to come in since she didn't have urgent projects and I said that would be fine.  And I've got things to do so I may as well do them here.

One thing I'm doing is thinking about what we'll be sharing at worship on the next two Sundays.  The plan that the network put together needed to change because of a copyright issue so the Lord is now moving us into a brief series on the first chapter of John's gospel.  Last Sunday's message (click here) focused on John 1:14-23.  This Sunday (and perhaps next) I think we'll be looking at John 1:23-51, pairing it with Hebrews 10:32--11:1.

When John the Baptist (and every Holy Spirit inspired "voice") points to Jesus, Jesus calls those who hear to take steps of faith in following Him.  These steps of faith are taken before we know the details of what "following" will mean.

Jesus gives very little information to his first followers.  He says "Come and See."  He wants them to follow first.  Then, IN THE FOLLOWING, in the PROCESS of following, they will grow in their relationship with Him, and in the relationship, they learn to know Him.

This pattern of faith is found consistently through the Bible (see Hebrews 11).  It's not something we can avoid.  Every day, every year, is an adventure.  And Jesus will teach us along the way.

Too often we Christians want to have everything sketched out for us ahead of time.  We want to know what our itinerary will be before we leave. 

But that's not Jesus' way.  Instead, he says "come and see."  He says "don't shrink back."  He says believing is walking forward, following Him in faith.  It's not about what we think we know.

This is a good word for us at Crossroads, as we move into a new year.  We have no security except in our Lord.  It's a wonderful place to be.

BELOW you'll find the scriptures that I'm praying over as I prepare.  Please join me in reading and praying and share what the Lord says to you in a comment or in another way.

Later today, join us for prayer at 6:30 if you can, and, if you want, come out to Don & Robin Begarowicz' at Cokato Lake RV Resort and Campground for the evening after that.  Some of us will brave the cold to be down by the bonfire for awhile and then join others indoors for games and fellowship. 

Don writes: "...We are having a new years eve fire at the beach around six o'clock here at the campgrounds. Hot cocoa and stuff will be available. We will then...  come up to the residence for games and chilli. If you would like to bring something to pass that is fine as well. Those that would like to stay the night your welcome just bring a sleeping bag and we will have places to sleep. We will do a simple breakfast in the morning."

Toni and I don't plan to stay the night but we thank Don & Robin for their truly sweet hospitality!  Questions call Don or Robin at 320-286-5779.  Here's a link to a map: http://goo.gl/maps/6S9Vq.  The more time we can spend together the more God will knit us into the body he desires.
John 1:23-51
    23 ...John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ ”
    24 Now some Pharisees who had been sent 25 questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” 28 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
    29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”
    32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”
    35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” 37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.
    38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour.
    40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).
    43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.
    47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” 48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” 50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Hebrews 10:32--11:1
    32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering.
    33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.
    35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For in just a very little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.”
    39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.
    1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Monday, December 30, 2013

One And Only

Here are my notes written in preparation for yesterday's message at Crossroads.  You can listen to what was spoken at the time on the Crossroads Worship (recordings) page.
    Today we continue the reading from the beginning of John’s Gospel.  On Christmas Eve we read verses 1-14, today we read 14-23.
John 1:14-23
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
15 John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ ”
16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ.” 21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.”
22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ ”
The One and Only
    John had an awesome attitude.
    There are actually two men by the name of John in our scripture.
    There’s the John who wrote the GOSPEL of John;
    Then there’s the John that John writes about…
    But none of that really matters because both Johns had the same awesome attitude. 
    Both of them were all about NOT lifting themselves up as leaders or teachers. 
    Both John the Evangelist and John the Baptist had the attitude described in Philippians 2
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, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness…
    That’s the attitude John the Baptist had when he called himself “the voice,” …
And it’s the attitude John the Evangelist had when he called himself “the disciple whom Jesus’ loved…” He did this several times.
    Both Johns spoke… they weren’t quiet…
    But when they spoke who did they point to?
    Jesus is the ONE AND ONLY because he is “THE ONLY BEGOTTEN” who came from the FATHER.
    Jesus had no human father.
    He was “conceived by the HOLY SPIRIT”…
    God miraculously brought HIS VERY OWN SON into the world…
    He’s unlike everyone else.
    When Jesus was talking to Nicodemus in John chapter 3 Jesus said this:
No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.
    Jesus is the ONLY way, the ONLY truth and the ONLY life.
    We always must point to HIM.  The way to coming into a relationship with Jesus always needs to be clear, not cluttered.
    Everyone else must get out of the way.
    Every leader… John… whichever John…
    Peter… Paul… Martin Luther…
    Let’s read a passage together from First Corinthians 1, and then one from Matthew 23 –
1 Corinthians 1:10–17
10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.
11 My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?
14 I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
Then let’s read from Matthew 23… we at this a couple weeks ago during our High School JAM time…
Jesus says…
“you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,” for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ.”
    There is only ONE who deserves a title among us. 
    There is only ONE who should be lifted up. 
    And all of us, with all of our voices…
    our Lord calls us to lift up Jesus just like John the Baptist did… and like JOHN the EVANGLIST…
    And Peter… and Paul… and any other leader…
    We are brothers and sisters in Christ.
    There are to be NO divisions among us.
    Anytime we divide up into competing groups or factions, anytime we follow leaders or teachers and grab a hold of them instead of just focusing on JESUS and the WORD OF GOD itself, we are turning AGAINST GOD.
    There is only ONE NAME that deserves our praise, THE ONE AND ONLY savior of the world and LORD of the universe… JESUS… JESUS… JESUS.
    Let’s praise Jesus through the words of the NICENE CREED –
We believe in ONE Lord, Jesus Christ, the ONLY Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father…  God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father.  Through HIM ALL THINGS WERE MADE…  For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven:
--he’s the only one who has ever done that—no pastor, no priest, no prophet, no ruler—no president… no one else is like JESUS… Let’s continue…
by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate [… he became human… “flesh”] from the virgin Mary and was made man.
(To be “incarnate” means that Jesus became human…  He is both GOD and MAN… the only one who is that way.)
For our sake [—for our good—] he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried.
(only he did this… no one else…)
On the third day he rose again in accordance with the scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
As we sang on Christmas –
Christ is the LORD!  O praise His NAME forever, His power and glory ever more proclaim!
    So we, like John, will make HIS way straight, removing any obstacles… including any honor we give anyone else. 
    We are all brothers and sisters. 
    We honor one another…
    and we honor those who share the good news with us—
but there is only one who is above us. 
    There is a word here for those of us who live here in Dassel-Cokato.
    Whenever attention goes to anyone other than JESUS CHRIST himself—
    Let me say this again—
    Whenever attention goes to anyone—like any leader, or any pastor, or any teacher, or any denomination—
    When anyone is ever lifted up beyond the plain fact of being a brother or sister in Christ, there is a DANGER.
    There is a danger that the road will be made crooked.
    There’s a danger that, as Paul said, that the Cross will be emptied of its power and people will begin to choose up sides.
    And the only antidote is to take our attention away from WHO is preaching and WHO is teaching and WHO is writing books or calling people to REPENT and GIVE their lives to JESUS…
    Attention needs to be MOVED from EVERYONE ELSE and put on the LORD.
    And we, like John the Baptist, become A VOICE calling out… MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY FOR THE LORD.

    Pray that we would repent of any allegiance to any teacher or preacher other than JESUS…
    That the way would be CLEARED out and made STRAIGHT for the coming of the LORD.
    Pray for the SALVATION of those who don’t know JESUS and for a halt to all quarreling that would keep our attention diverted from HIM,
    And that with ALL OUR VOICES we would lift up JESUS and HIS salvation.


Friday, December 27, 2013

Blessings to Consider

Good morning all!  Merry Christmas!

We were blessed here (at Crossroads) on Christmas Eve.  Thank you to everyone who helped make our time of worship into a fitting celebration for the Lord.  We have no photos but we do have a recording that you can access at sermon.net/crossroadsdc/sermonid/1200158098.  Thank you to our A/V crew for uploading this and other recordings.

Since then I've been blessed with family time.  Toni hosted 14 people for Christmas Eve at our home, then we went to my brother's home and to Toni's parents'.  We returned home last night.

Now I'm looking forward to what's coming up.  On Sunday morning we'll come together for Bible study at 9 (no children's Sunday school this week) and worship at 10:15.  And, for those who desire, we'll meet on Saturday, 7:30-9:00 AM for our church study group.

I'm going to use the rest of this blog post to share two emails (below) that have been sent out yesterday and today.
  • The first was sent to all who are on the current Crossroads email list.  If you want to have your name added, please let me know.  
  • The second was sent out to a couple people who were at our first "Church Study Group" meeting but who missed the second.
The invitations given below are extended to all who read this blog.  Consider these blessings.  Praise God and pray with us at Crossroads Community Church, that God's Will is Done on Earth as in heaven.

Sincerely, Pastor Steve


Crossroads Friends -

Good afternoon all!

Thank you to all of you who were able to be with us at Crossroads for Christmas Eve.  Let's continue to pray and act for the good of all who need evidence of heaven on earth.

Two "in house" matters to be praying about:
  • Crossroads Spiritual Direction: God is blessing us with a "church study group" focusing on Crossroads' spiritual life.  If you are committed to this church and are a man or woman of prayer and Bible study, we invite you to participate with us on Saturday morning, Dec. 28, 7:30-9:00 a.m.  We're looking at patterns and examples of church life that we find in scripture.  Some materials we're looking at are near the church's front entrance, or let Pastor Steve know and he'll make them available by email or will bring them to you personally.
  • Crossroads Partnership for 2014 - If you trust Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, accept the Bible as your authority for faith and life, and believe God is calling you to join with Crossroads Community Church for the coming year, we invite you to read and sign the 2014 partnership agreement.  You'll find it on the bookshelf outside the worship area at church.  More information is at http://bit.ly/CrossroadsPartner.
Check http://bit.ly/CrossrAnnounce for other announcements and opportunities.  We'll be doing more updating tomorrow when the office is open (9-11 AM).

Call or text or email Pastor Steve Thorson any time.


Hi _______!  Hi ______! - I hope you had a great Christmas!

Looking forward to seeing you and the others Saturday morning at 7:30!  We missed the two of you last time and would truly benefit from your presence this week.  We're keeping the group open to others too but I value both of your contributions very much.  No one person can substitute for another (the hand can't say to the foot, we have no need of you) so we are much stronger when we're together.

As we gather God will lead us into a clearer discernment and vision of what He is calling Crossroads to be and to do in this season.

This week, to open up our conversation, we'll spend a few moments sharing scripture and prayer (and even perhaps a song!) and we'll ask the Holy Spirit to lead us.  Unless the Lord leads us to something different, we'll look at some of the questions at the end of chapter 2 this week.

Why are we looking at the Reimagining Church book?
  • It serves as a sort of backboard (as in basketball) against which we can bounce the patterns of our church life (past and present) in pursuit of God's will (the goal).
  • It is helpful in that process because it's one attempt to bring the life of the early church into a 21st century reality.
  • It will not be a blueprint for us but it will help us to compare our church's life to that which the Holy Spirit brought into existence "at the beginning."
  • In that comparison we (together) will prayerfully and carefully discern a "vision" of what God is calling us to be and to do.  Once we have that vision we'll be in a better position to make decisions going forward.
Let me know if I can be of any assistance in any way.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Point of Gathering

I always look forward to the time I spend gathered with others in Jesus' name.  I love spending time with men and women who love God's Word and are dedicated to the Lord Jesus.  Being with them, no matter what their age, is so sweet, particularly when we can have time together to look into God's Word and be together in prayer. 

The Lord has blessed us with many such times in the last few days, beginning with the Saturday morning "church study group."  I am thankful!

The point of gathering is to grow closer to the Lord and to discern His ways.  The love that we have for one another is good as long as we are focused on the right thing.  If we focus on one another too much, we can fall into idolatry, that is, we can idolize the good feelings that being with others gives.

In today's "Moravian Daily Texts," we read about the time when Jacob told his household to reject any "foreign gods" that they had in their possession.  Releasing anything that is not "of God" is a discipline that God continues to call for among his people.  Putting other things aside is often a painful thing to do, but it must be done if our worship, and our "gathering" in Jesus' name is to be true.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Practical and Spiritual

Good morning!  It's above zeroF at the moment (5:25 AM).  That's surprising.  I thought I saw a forecast for another ten below morning.  I guess I won't have to wear my insulated bibs when I head over to the bus garage.  Long johns will be enough.

Days fly by.  All told, morning and afternoon, I spend about 4 hours doing my bus driving job.  As to my "church" work, there are the practical and immediate tasks, conversations, planning and advance preparations that go on every day.  Plus, of course, there are always personal and family things that need to be taken care of.  Yesterday, for example, we spent two hours with our health insurance agent.  Fortunately Toni takes care of most of the "Christmas shopping" and other things needed for our family celebration.  That's coming up in about 10 days.  Yikes.

What ends up requiring the most time is deeper spiritual and intellectual work that I need to do to be a helpful spiritual leader for Crossroads church.  One of the things I've been doing over the past week or so is prayer and in depth personal study connected with what our "Church Study Group" is looking at.  We're looking at a book the Reimagining Church book that I've mentioned before on this blog.  And what I'm doing is to study a "review" of that book and the responses that the Reimagining Church author has given to those critiques.  That's important for spiritual discernment, something that I find to be central to my work.

Time to get those long johns on and hit the road.  I need to be in my car and on my way to Dassel before 6:10.  Have a good day.


Friday, December 6, 2013

More than Singing

"Massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our times — that they have to rank alongside slavery and apartheid as social evils,” he said. "Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity... It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life,” he said. “While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.” - Nelson Mandela

Lifting up Jesus at Pine Terrace Baptist Church
Photo credit to David
Mathieson — in Milton, FL.
Those quotations came via Lois Nangudi, a young woman who I've only met once, but who I know as someone who grew up in Uganda as a child sponsored by Compassion International.  I wish I knew more of her story, but as she quoted Nelson Mandela today, as so many have, it brings to mind God's command to "Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!"  Lois is now a singer with Life Action Ministries after graduating from Moody Theological Seminary earlier this year.  What a testimony she brings when she sings!

The quote in bold is from the prophet Amos.  It's found in today's "Moravian Daily Texts."  Also today I spent time at the Cokato Food Shelf, connecting personally with those in need.  And, on top of all those things, I'm thinking and praying about the theme that I've written about here earlier this week in a post called "The Advent Conspiracy."  

God is speaking strongly today about what it is we are to be doing on this earth.  It's not all about "spiritual" things.  If so, we could just sing, pray, worship, and let the world go.  But God is not just the creator of heaven, he's also the creator, and the sustainer, and the lover, of this world and all its people.

As I prepare for Sunday and a message on "The Advent Conspiracy," God is forcibly reminding me of His mission to bring the way we live every day into agreement with His Loving Purposes for the world.  The scripture above from Amos, the one about justice and righteousness flowing on and on with strength and powerful love--that scripture comes immediately after an attack on just what it is we normally do a lot of during this Advent and Christmas Season...
As I sit here in my warm house, having been well fed several times on this particular day, and as I consider how we will worship God when we next gather at Crossroads, I am in deep prayer, asking that the Lord would speak powerfully among us so that we will reach out every day and make a real difference among the poor and among all who are suffering.  I pray I would be willing to make personal choices that honor God in every way.  I pray that our worship this Sunday would inspire us to talk together as families about how we can stand up for real, personal, practical love.  I pray that, yes, in some ways, we would follow the example of Nelson Mandela and Lois Nangudi so that young and old can rejoice and join in bringing justice and righteousness to the earth.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Let It Snow

The buses were lined up at 3:00 this afternoon, ready for the middle and high school kids to get on board for their ride home.  Evening activities were cancelled including church youth, so Toni and I are spending a rare Wednesday evening at home.  I didn't even go into the church office as usual after the PM route (which was about 20 minutes slower than usual).  I came right home and shoveled the driveway.  Now the wind has come up and the temps are falling.  It's a good night to stay put.

I like evenings at home, but I know that the peace and quiet we find in our home is quite different than others experience.  I also know that the Lord would usually not have us cocooning by ourselves.  The Holy Spirit would have us out and about... or he would have us bringing the 'homeless poor' in.  See Isaiah 58:7.

If you are in need tonight, I hope you will take courage and reach out for help to us personally or to some other trustworthy man or woman of God.  We'll reach out with some phone calls and connect this way (via electronic media), but it's hard to know just who might appreciate help, so please let us or others know.  We want God to stretch us so that we're available to whoever may be in need, even when it snows.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Advent Conspiracy

Some thoughts in preparation for preaching on Sunday, Dec. 8 -  Not carefully edited!  Come on Sunday to share together what God will do with this!

Near the beginning of the (above) video that introduces The Advent Conspiracy, there's a part where it says "Everyone wants Christmas to be meaningful but then it becomes shop shop shop, credit cards, traffic jams, to do lists, useless gifts. Then off to church."

This points to the separation of our lives into categories--parts I'm in charge of and parts I give to God.

This separation has existed since the devil's first temptation.  His temptation, and our sin, has been to reject God's jurisdiction over ALL of our lives, even over those things that SEEM inconsequential.  What harm could something do that is "good for food"?

So we put our desires and our comforts above what God knows is best, and, at the same time, make excuses and pretend that we aren't outright rebels.  We do this by giving a part of our lives to God.  That's what the pharisees were symbols of, i.e. "this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote" (Isaiah 29:13).

But God has a plan.  God has conspired to definitively break into the non-religious part of our lives.  He has come to BREAK THE BARRIER we have erected between our own personal (and family, business, community) lives.  He announces this plan through the prophets, who are constantly telling the religious people that it does no good to do religious things while ignoring what happens in secular life.

The plan is finally fulfilled through Jesus.  Through God who comes to be with us (and against us too! when we sin) in all of the areas of our lives.

This working out of this plan is shown when Jesus is born in a "non-religious" place ("what good can come from Nazareth?") among people who were not playing any kind of religious role, and when both heaven (angels) and earth (not religiously acceptable shepherds) rejoice and in Jesus' ministry as he calls common people as followers, pours out love and healing on the multitudes etc., and grants FORGIVENESS even to those who are not seeking it in religious ways.

And the barrier between secular and sacred is shattered definitively when the Holy Spirit creates a community that is not just religious but also common (believers sharing possessions etc.) and when worship now is not confined to religious locations (John 4) but is moved into homes.

This is plan is the "Advent Conspiracy."  This is God's plan to bring ALL back into his Kingdom.

Of course, the devil continues to frustrate and tempt us, even after we have been given over to Him through trusting God.  The evil one works to divide our lives once again, to put our relationship with God back into religious corners and pushing worldly comforts on us... especially, and tragically, exactly at those times when God desires us to remember how HE CAME to break the barrier at Christmas.  And, sadly one of the things he does is to use this season to make materialists out of our kids.  It's very sad.  (See http://infoforfamilies.com/blog/2013/11/13/how-to-raise-a-pagan-kid-in-a-christian-home ... that doesn't speak specifically to Christmas, but it does warn us about what can happen when we keep the "church" / "home" divide in place.  This is a devil's snare.)

So God calls us now to join that conspiracy, by being emptied of our own agendas for the holy-days and refilled with HIS holy plan and Spirit through His Word, and letting God rule our lives beyond church, and all the way into our homes.  This conspiracy will take repentance.  And we will need one another to do it, just as the early Christians needed one another, so do we. 

That's why, this year, we will involve families with adults in the Christmas program... I can't wait.  And it's why we'll encourage one another to tell our loved ones that they don't need to do any scurrying around for us because God has taken our greed and our need for "more" away from us.  I'm inviting my family to give to Andria Jasper and her future mission work in Thailand.  That would be a wonderful gift that matches God's heart in me.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

November Wrap-up

Good evening all!  It's the end of November.  Tomorrow at Crossroads we'll be blessed by the ministry of our sons Dan & Jon Thorson as we kick off "The Advent Conspiracy."  We'll start with an emphasis on worship.  To make sure we don't rush through this topic, we've decided to postpone communion to Dec. 8.

Early this morning 9 folks from Crossroads met together to study and pray together.  We invited people to participate through an email, and through announcements made during worship.  I am praising God that we had such a good group get together.  I'm hoping others choose to join us in coming weeks.  Our next meeting of this "Church Study Group" is scheduled for two weeks from today, Dec. 14, at 7:30 AM.

I've been blessed these days with a break from bus driving.  On Wednesday evening we shared a time of worship with Crossroads friends, and then on Thursday Toni and I were at home with a small crowd (24) of our relatives here at home.  Since then we've enjoyed special time with each of our three grown children and others.  I've been able to do a project that I've been meaning to get to for many years, scanning old slides from our time in Brazil back in the early 1980s.

This is just a quick update about what's going on with us.  I look forward to hearing from each of you as I can.  God bless you all.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tomorrow 7 PM

Crossroads Friends -
Thanksgiving!  What a great time to be together!  We're sending this note out tonight just to remind you all that TOMORROW (Wednesday) here at Crossroads we'll celebrate Thanksgiving together with worship at 7:00 PM!  Don't miss this special time as we sing and praise and share. 
Here’s the scripture we’ll be using as the basis of tomorrow night’s service,  “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. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart…”  (Philippians 1:3–7).

In that scripture the Apostle Paul, directed by the Holy Spirit, expressed his whole hearted thanksgiving to God and let the people of Philippi know how he felt!  What a blessing it was for them!

When we gather tomorrow  sing and share thanksgivings... and encourage one another to share a blessing with those we thank God for!  And then after worship, we'll share pie!  Bring one if you can!

God bless you all and see you tomorrow at 7!  ALL AGES INVITED!  We'll help the children participate tomorrow night too.
More at our website www.crossroadscokato.com

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Put Your Whole Self In

We're wrapping our Sermon on the Mount series today at Crossroads.  Next week we'll begin something new -- something called "The Advent Conspiracy."  Our sons Dan & Jon Thorson will launch the series Dec. 1 with a focus on worship.  Between the two Sundays we'll celebrate Thanksgiving.  More about all these things on the Crossroads website.

The Sermon on the Mount is the longest and most intense example of Jesus' teachings that we have in the Bible.  In it, and in the other teachings of Jesus' that we find throughout the gospels: 
  1. He pictures and describes a life totally dedicated to God.  
  2. He shakes us up, not letting us be content with compromise.  
  3. He invites us to repent, to turn around, to begin a new life with Him.
Praise God, this is a joyful way of life!  It's sweet!  It's a dance!  Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EnaAFyrcQM&feature=youtu.be&t=1m35s to see what I mean!


Monday, November 18, 2013

The End of Preaching

The following is from Are sermons becoming obsolete? by
Two hundred years ago, lectures and speeches were common. People assembled to hear learned individuals lecture on a variety of topics because this was the only way to transmit complex ideas  (other than books, which were expensive).

Today, there are literally millions of communications channels through which ideas can be transmitted. As a result, the live lecture is disappearing. Only two institutions still regularly offer them: universities and churches. And if a recent article in the Washington Post is accurate, the church may soon be the last institution on Earth that trains people primarily by verbal lecture.

According to the article, universities are “abandoning or retooling the lecture as a style of teaching, worried that it’s driving students away.”

“Just because teachers say something at the front of the room doesn’t mean that students learn,” said Diane Bunce, a chemistry professor at Catholic University.

“Since the 1990s, research on pedagogy has shifted from what instructors teach to what students learn. And studies have shown students in traditional lecture courses learn comparatively little,” the article says.

Universities are also being pressured by the Internet, which allows students to sit under the world’s great professors, who are often gifted communicators.

Colleges are responding with more collaborative, participatory lessons. Students are divided into groups and given projects to work on. Chemistry instructor Jane Greco “records her lectures and posts them online as homework.” She devotes classroom time to interactive discussion of the lesson and helps students work through problems.

So, what does this mean for the church? Is the lecture style sermon going the way of the dinosaur?

Yes and no. There will always be live sermons. But will anyone be listening?

Just as universities are re-thinking the lecture, it might be time for churches to re-think the sermon. Thom and Joani Schultz polled churchgoers and found that just 12 percent could recall the topic of the last sermon they heard. Only five percent of men credited sermons as their primary source of knowledge about God.

So if sermons are becoming obsolete, what will take their place?

Discipleship. Our generation may be drowning in ideas, but we’re starving for real human contact.

The problem is, our churches are structured to deliver sermons and music. If there’s any energy left, we disciple people.

What if we could turn that around? What if there were a way of organizing believers around a weekly discipleship experience, instead of a weekly lecture-and-singalong?

Universities are doing it. They’re moving lectures to the web, and turning classroom time into small group and individual “discipleship.”

Funny. That’s exactly what the early church was like. Sermons were for nonbelievers, but the church was essentially a small group discipleship experience. Perhaps it’s time to experiment once again with this ancient strain of church planting, less reliant on a weekly sermon, and more dependent on believers spurring one another on toward good works.
Let's talk about this!  AND THEN LET'S PRAY!


Saturday, November 16, 2013


I remember in 1983 going to São Paulo with a professor from what was known then as the "Faculdade de Teologia" in São Leopoldo.  I remember we took a bus to an area of that immense city that I wasn't familiar with at all.  The professor, Dick Wangen, told me, before we got going, that he was going to walk fast and I should keep up with him, look straight ahead, and not ask any questions until we got to our destination.  It wasn't the safest area of town for two "Americanos."

I've remembered that advice for times when I'm in places where I might stand out as a foreigner or stranger.  Walk fast, look straight ahead, and don't ask questions.

With the Lord, though, we don't need to follow that advice.  We can ASK him anything at all... and there are great and wonderful promises that come with asking FOR THOSE WHO FOLLOW HIM with everything they have and all that they are.
  • Ask and it will be given to you...
  • Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
  • If any of you lacks wisdom, he or she should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault.
  • This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
We'll look at those verses and more tomorrow at Crossroads.  Come, or, if you can't, click here after tomorrow morning for a link to the recorded worship and message.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

You're Not Alone

It is good to be together!   God loves us and wants us to be His, not as lonely individuals, but as a family.

The pictures posted here are from Wednesday night's Crossroads Youth.  We didn't go outside for our game so we played "ELECTRICITY" inside after supper.  Too bad we don't have a video.  It was fun and loud!

After the game we heard from a community leader... some of you will recognize him... He works in the field of education and he came in to share his walk with the Lord Jesus.  I scratched a few notes as he shared with us:
  • I tend to be very focused and very independent and that's not what God wants from us.
  • Until your faith becomes your own, and until you know you need God, your life is not going to change for the better.
  • Acknowledge your need to Christ every day.
  • Enduring change takes time.
I was thankful for our guest's honesty.  He shared so much with our kids about many topics, some very personal, including his need for God's peace in the midst of his job.  Thank you so much for taking time to be with us!

Just his being there with our youth Wednesday night, and his being at school in his leadership role is a sign for them that they are not alone even as a group of students.  Many adults are there for them spiritually, prayerfully, with the heart of Jesus.

It was a good evening.  Unbeknownst to any of us God had arranged it all under the theme "You're Not Alone," a theme that was set by a song that one of our youth leaders had heard on the radio and played for us between the "Electricity" game and the guest speaker... some of the words are:
I'm not gonna stand here, when my friend's down and out.
I'm not gonna run, when it's hard to figure it all out.
If there's anything I'd say,
I will tell you right now:
You're not alone...
Those woulds could have come from our Lord... they were sung by Marie Miller..., but still, our Lord does not leave us, and he sends us one another.  So good!  (A music video of the song is at http://youtu.be/D8EBt7pFAFw.)

It's true -- You are not alone.  If you feel like you are, pray and reach out.  Talk with someone.  Even in the public schools where prayer must be more private than it should be, believers are there.  We had a sign of that last night and we were all blessed.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Come Together

COMMUNITY and togetherness have been front and center in my heart for quite some time. Those qualities have always been important in my walk with the Lord, but even more in the past few months.  So right now, I can't wait for tomorrow!

I think it's my desire for closer community that leads me to write like this and publish so people might possibly read some of it.  I do other things to, like make phone calls "out of the blue" to people I care about.  And that is good.
* But, in the process, it's important that I don't forget that it is in those places and among those people where we are known personally and well that God does His best work in us and through us. The Lord commands each believer to love "one another" that that means specific people, not just the "Church" in general.

I think sometimes believers are tempted to avoid deep, personal, consistent, long-term, mutually accountable relationships with nearby believers because it is in those close relationships that God works on us as individuals, shaping our character.

Remember: Even Jesus Christ committed himself to one group.

I don't think just "belonging" to one local church is the complete solution, especially since most local churches are more like institutions than like families or communities, but we need to guard against being scattered in our spiritual and personal lives, and not being willing to commit for a time to a body where we are known well enough to be "worked on" and corrected in that group.

Just a few thoughts.

God bless you all.
* indented section added 6 AM Sunday


Friday, November 1, 2013

Redefining Pastor

For many years, and more clearly in the last year or so, probably since about the time that Crossroads began studying the book of Acts on Sunday mornings, I've been wondering what it might mean, in a practical sense, to re-form a church based more closely on the patterns of Christian life that we find in the New Testament.

Back on Monday I mentioned in this blog that I had been reading a book (see photo) that connects closely with this.  As I have started studying this book, I've discovered that I feel "at home" in it.  It's as if Frank Viola is clearly spelling out what I have always believed.

I'm hoping to spend time with brothers and sisters at Crossroads in prayer and study of these things, perhaps by reading and studying Reimaginging Church, but, in any case, the outcome will not mean only a "reimagining" of church, but a redefining of my own self too, especially in the eyes of others.  For I've never accepted some of the stereotypes that people have of "pastors" in the church.

I've been called "pastor" since 1986.  Right now I'm honored to serve as "pastor" of Crossroads Community Church.  But what is a "pastor"?  Where do we get our definition of that term?  Do we get it from the Bible?  Or do we get it from somewhere else?

Frank's book says that many of our ideas come from hierarchical systems, systems or organizations in which people or groups are ranked one above the other according to status or authority.  Sometimes we think of pastors as the "Chief Executive Officer" or "CEO."  Other ideas come from the Old Testament, such as when we consider the pastor to be "the shepherd of the flock," the flock being the people of the church, or the "chief spokesman" or "figurehead."

But does God truly recommend that a single leader do these things?  As we read the New Testament, we will not find this "single leader" model.  The emphasis in the New Testament is on co-equal ministry as brothers and sisters, with more experienced believers being honored and respected.  Church leadership is to be recognized from the bottom up, not from the top down.

As I have read the Bible, as I have prayed, and as I have lived life in the role of "pastor" for many years, I have always believed, and have worked to the end that spiritual leadership be shared, that no one person should be "the leader" of a church in a spiritual sense.

I have always worked for the sharing of that leadership on a more equal basis.  I have preached this, advised this and tried to be an example of someone who respects the leadership of those who are not "ordained" or "commissioned" in an official way.  I could tell stories and share anecdotes of how my work in the church has been marked by this commitment.  I can remember times when people have been set free to minister with me as equals.  I can also share memories of times when I've been told I'm a failure as a pastor because I do not accept the hierarchical model.

If some of us at Crossroads would be willing to read and study the ideas that the book Reimagining Church puts forward, I believe this would be a good step toward the future God has for us, and for the future God desires for me personally.  Being a "pastor" in this sense would be defined as being one of those responsible, with others who are respected for their spiritual leadership, for equipping and building up every believer, so we all are mature and unified, ready to do the work of God.


Ephesians 4:11-16 "The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love."

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Few Quick Updates

Just a quick "hi" before I go out to continue some time sensitive work on our porch roof.  Rain is forecast for tomorrow so I need to make sure the edge I'm working on is sealed up.
  • Yesterday was a great day at Crossroads.  Listen to the recording here.  It's unfortunate that our recording microphones don't pick up the sound of the whole church singing and praising!  Yesterday's recording didn't even pick up the whole band... I have no idea why!  We are thankful, in any case, for Libby Bayuk and the way that the Lord has inspired her to work with our young people to get them ready for sharing their faith in Jesus.  We were so blessed yesterday by two testimonies from high school students.  They brought tears to my eyes.  Listen to them at about 34 minutes into the recording.
  • Plans are being initialized for a Youth Works mission trip next Summer.  An email about this will probably go out before Tuesday evening.
  • We're thankful for communication is with the families of our younger children.  This communication was initiated by one of our board members who cares deeply for family.  As a church we are moving into a new phase of life together, a phase that will require us to pray and spend time and talk a lot with one another. 
  • One of the most important times for such conversation is at our 9:00 AM Bible study.  Please come!  What we looked at yesterday morning was especially interesting.  We looked at the part from Acts 16 where the Apostles Paul and Timothy are willing to give into traditional practices in order to reach Jewish people with the good news of Jesus.  This spoke to me personally as I consider how we should be willing to bend in order to bless tradition bound people with the eternal Word of God.
  • I've been reading (actually listening to an audio form of a book entitled) Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity.  Fascinating!  Much of what Frank Viola writes connects closely with what I've thought for 30 years.  What remains is how the life patterns of the early church fit us at Crossroads.
I'm sure there is more that will come to mind throughout the day but I need to get out on that roof.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Not for Show

I wrote the following in an email to a friend.  This coming Sunday, if we were following the plan that has been set up by the "network" of spiritual leaders that meet together to pick preaching themes, we would continue with the Sermon on the Mount series.  Instead, we at Crossroads will be blessed by young people sharing their faith in our One Lord.  If was going to preach, I'd probably say some things like this:

Matthew 6:1-18 challenges much of what "church" does when we gather for public worship.  There are three parts: one on giving, one on prayer, and one on fasting.

Those three parts are introduced by this one verse where Jesus says:
"Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven." (Mt 6:1)
The "you" and "your" in the scripture is PLURAL, not singular, so what Jesus is teaching isn't just about doing things in "secret" in the sense of being alone as one solitary individual.  You can see this clearly in the beginning of the Lord's prayer where it's not "My Father" but "Our Father."  Instead, it speaks to small groups of disciples (like the original 12) or the larger groups that met together for worship (such as in Acts and the Epistles) saying that they, as a group, should not make a show of giving or prayer or fasting (deprive ourselves of life's pleasures for a time so we can focus on the Lord) for the purpose of impressing any human beings.  It's in secret FOR GOD and Him alone, not a show for those who happen to observe.

As to prayer in particular, Jesus' teaching about closing the door and not using many words speaks to the PURPOSE of prayer.  The purpose of praying should not be (1) to put on a show for others or (2) because we think that God hears us better if we use many words.  If we want to know about prayer and how this passage applies, we can look at the book of Acts and see how often the early disciples gathered... for prayer and life together.  The first Christians had their own private prayer life, but it overflowed beyond to the gatherings of the faithful.

We can, and should, spend time alone in prayer, but there is no sense in scripture that prayer should be limited to that.  Unfortunately the way most of us have experienced church life is that it's either (A) private prayer or (B) prayers for show, such as when prayers are prepared and carefully performed for a large gathering.  The vision of the New Testament is of private, personal prayer WITH frequent times of praying to "our Father," praying for the coming of God's kingdom to us now, that all we do would be conformed to HIS will and not popular opinion, that OUR needs (daily bread for all) would be provided--often through sharing what we have (see James 1), that we would be overflowing with forgiveness and protected from sin and evil.

The Lord's prayer that is given here is a model prayer.  It's not given to tell us we should always pray using these particular words.  Luther and many other Bible teachers tell us this.  We are to learn from this prayer about what topics and attitudes there should be in all our prayers.  You'll notice, as you see all the other times when the disciples or early church prayed, that they used Jesus' teaching of this prayer to form how it was they would lift all their concerns to the Lord.  And Luther was firm, someone reminded us the other night, that parents need to teach their children to pray.  The way they learn that is by hearing the prayers of their parents and the other adults in their lives, prayers filled with joy and sorrow, prayers filled with praise and repentance, prayers for guidance and full of thanksgiving.

What Jesus says here doesn't mean we should never pray with many words, for Jesus himself prayed with many words (see John 17) as did the disciples (see Paul's letters and Acts).  The point is that we should not do it to impress God or others

As to fasting, our Lord assumes we will deprive ourselves of worldly comforts for a time so we can focus on Him; but, again it's the attitude that matters.  We don't do it to impress our parents, our children, our community, or anyone else.

In short, the idea that we should come to church so giving an offering or praying or other spiritual exercises can be performed for us is not what God has in mind.  If we desire, as I hope we do, the spiritual rewards that come with spending time before the Lord, we will give and pray and fast as the disciples did--both as a group together, and alone with God.  God has so much to give.  Let's pursue it all so God's kingdom will come among us.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Children

Crossroads Friends:
We need your help.
It came to my attention last night that we have a need to focus more on our kids, particularly our young children and particularly on Sunday mornings outside of Sunday School. 
One thing that I learned is how much people have appreciated our "Time for Children" on Sunday mornings.  As I think back over the past few weeks, I realize, much to my surprise, that I've neglected to include that time recently.  Another thing that has been helpful in the past is the practice of "blessing" our children at communion.  No one has ever said anything about that to my memory, until last night.
In any case, we need to make some adjustments for the sake of our children and I need your help with that.  I need your ideas and your patience and your prayers.
What would be helpful for our children?  Are there things that are particularly helpful or not?  Some things may be relatively easy for us to focus on, other things may take more time, but what we need is your input.  Even if those things have already been mentioned here or in another conversation, I truly need to hear from you.
Please let us know what would help you in ministering to your children. 
Would you please respond to this either by writing back or by contacting me right away?  Please don't assume that someone else has talked with me.  We need to respond quickly and we need to hear from you in order to do that.
Thanks again.
Pastor Steve Thorson

Monday, October 21, 2013

Not Necessarily Quiet

"As an example of patience..."

What do you think of when you think of patience?  I was reading my regular morning scriptures, the ones I read together with the men and women I pray with at 6:30 AM, and ran into this verse from James:
Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. (5:10)
That's an encouraging word for someone like me.  My mental picture of patience can now expand.  I think I've unconsciously considered patience to be a silent or quiet thing, but now I'm encouraged to keep speaking the Word of God.  That's a good thing because, as Jeremiah wrote:
"...If I say,  'I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,' his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot." (20:9)
Now I have a word from God saying I'm not impatient when insist on the right to speak, and feel that I must.  Praise God!


Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Good Life

I'm at my parents' condo.  I had meetings in Buffalo and Minneapolis earlier and came here in the early afternoon to spend some time with mom and dad.  I was able to do that because I don't have bus driving now during MEA weekend.  Nice to have the time to see my parents.

Dad is 30 years older than I am and mom is a few years younger.  I'm thankful that they have this condominium to live in.  I remember the headaches they had years ago when they had their own home.  Here they don't need to think about the condition of the roof or do any lawn care.

There are many other condo residents here too, people that they enjoy.  (I went down with dad for coffee today and one of the women asked me if I had a wry sense of humor like he does.  Yes.  I certainly do.)  At the moment mom and dad are downstairs in the dining room having supper there.  Supper is available, for a price, four days a week.

I'm writing this at the moment because of something my dad said today.  We were sitting in the living room and somehow the topic of all their piles of papers came up.  Dad said something about being a "world class procrastinator" and that he is a champion of letting things just be "good enough."  At 87 years old I'm not complaining at all about him saying that, but it got me thinking about the different sort of attitude I see from Jesus in his "Sermon on the Mount."

In the series of messages we're doing on Sundays we've arrived at the part where Jesus deals with a whole list of issues... murder and anger, adultery and lust, divorce, oaths, retribution ("an eye for an eye" vs. "turn the other cheek") and hatred vs. love for our enemies.  He caps this section with verse 48 where he says
Uff da.*  How does being "perfect" fit in with a family that is based on things being "good enough"?  It's just too much!

It is too much for my family.  It is too much for my biological family.  But it's not too much for the family of GOD. 

My HEAVENLY Father lifts me to a new standard.  I'm not talking about a standard of perfection that doesn't leave papers and magazines lying around on every available surface.  I'm talking about the standards that really matter--standards that are in tune with God's passion for a really GOOD life, a life where anger is replaced with understanding and patience, where lust gives way to faithfulness in marriage, where honesty and generosity and LOVE rule.

Those standards were passed down in my biological family.  From the time when I was small we learned them.  These PERFECT ways, ways that we learned from JESUS CHRIST have influenced me in my "characteristic and habitual" way of life.  I stray from it, but I know the perfect way, and I recognize when I'm off course and receive God's correction.  And I am so thankful.

I'll preach a message (entitled "The Good Life") with some of these thoughts on Sunday morning, October 20.  That day will be the 29th anniversary of the day I married my best friend, Tonia Lynn Dahlin.  Both Toni and I were raised in households that honored this perfect way and this good life.  In some ways, for example, when it comes to clutter around the house, we do have a "good enough" attitude.  But when it comes to the standards of Christ, both Toni and I do allow God to correct us and set us back on His Good and Perfect way.


Do you recognize God's way?  Do you know it?  Are you willing to humble yourself and learn from Jesus?  Spend some time meditating on God's Word tonight.  Look at the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 and allow God to correct you.  And spend a good amount of time with others who accept God's standards.  It's a lot harder to live according to the Lord's ways when everyone around us is going another direction.

I want to pray tonight for those who have not learned "The Good Life" in their "families of origin."  I want to pray for you if you need to connect with and even become part of a "new family."  The good news is that God actually gives us a new family.  We don't need to continue in the perversity of the world.  You can start again and we are here to help.

If you know that your ways are far distant from the ways that the Lord lays out for us in Scripture, don't harden your heart.  Don't say "it's good enough."  The Lord Jesus loves you just like you are and he welcomes you, now, into His family.  I will pray that God will connect you with living, breathing examples of His perfect ways, and, if I can, I will help you connect wherever you are.

God bless you all.

I learned that expression from my Norwegian-American parents.  There's a wikipedia article covering it -- click HERE!  Imagine!  An encyclopedia article about "uff da!" That's an "uff da" too!)


The Way We Should Go

Some at Crossroads have wondered why we put such a high priority on praying and studying God's Word as we come to moments of decision.
  • We have said we must go to the Lord first, taking time, no matter how small those decisions may seem to be. 
  • We believe that is far better than just reacting from our own minds or "flesh" and thinking we can figure things our on our own. 
Why? Why can't we act more quickly? Why can't we take a vote and decide?

Read the following. It came today via email at 5:00 AM from Equip Leadership (iequip.org/daily-devotional/). At that link you'll find a page with a sample devotional with a "button" on that page to subscribe to the emails.

The following is written specifically for those in leadership positions, but it says something to all of us who have "opinions" about "the way we should go."

All of us are leaders in some way.  For example, think of family life.  How will we make decisions in our homes?  Shall we govern by "majority rule"?  I hope not, especially if there are more children than adults in your house!

Try putting your name in the following wherever you see the word "leader."


Security is Found in the Lord, Not in Followers 

"Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain." Psalm 127:1 

Unless God remains at the center of your efforts, you labor in vain. Whether we lead in the military, in construction, or sit behind a desk, we cannot fight, build, or plan well enough to gain anything permanent. Smart leaders not only include God in their strategy, they place Him at its center. He alone can provide leaders with security; we cannot get it from followers. Consider the following list of rules regarding security and people:
  • People cannot provide permanent security for a leader.
  • Leaders should never put their emotional health in the hands of someone else. 
  • Spiritual and emotional health requires the truth. 
  • Leaders must remember that hurting people naturally hurt people. 
  • Trouble arises when leaders depend on people to do what only God can do. 
Excerpt from The Maxwell Leadership Bible.



Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Salt and Light

On Sunday we were all blessed with the truth of God's Word as shared by Steve Basney.  He introduced a series on the Sermon on the Mount with a message on the "beatitudes" found in Matthew 5:1-12 with a special focus on the first beatitude: "Blessed are the poor in spirit..."  I encourage you to take time to listen to it... click here for the worship service... his message "Kingdom People in a Fallen World" begins about 30-40 minutes from the beginning.  There's also a handout "Heart Check" and "Self-Assessment" in PDF form here.

The next part of the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:13-20) is the part about believers (disciples of Jesus) being "salt" and "light" that is not mixed or shadowed.  The righteousness that Christ gives us is pure, and, as you'll see below, such purity is annoying, irritating, hard to handle--until one is filled with the Holy Spirit of God... and the Holy Spirit filled person is annoying, irritating, hard to handle.  So we must pray for GRACE and "FAVOR" so we're do not give into the temptation to compromise the truth in an attempt to win people for the Lord.

Here's some continued thoughts I have to share about this coming Sunday's message--three bullet points and some general comments...
  1. Christians (disciples) are different--and for good reason. 
  2. Some Christians don't understand this and it's important that they do because all disciples are tempted to give up the difference and fit in.  If we do give in, we will not be a blessing anymore, we'll simply fit in with the rotting and dark patterns of the world.  Jesus' example shows us that some will reject the Gospel and the New Life; 2 Cor 2:14-16a tells us that some will experience the "difference" as a bad thing.
  3. So what do we do?  We PRAY and stay close to the Word of God (Jesus).  We will pray for others and for "favor," (or good flavor!) that is, that God will give others a favorable impression of the salt and light in our lives ("that a door may be opened" Col 4:3) and continue to be immersed in the Word of God (in Jesus' life, death and resurrection) because sometimes we will experience rejection.
Being "salt" and "light" is in contrast to what is in the world, that is, in the world there is decomposition (rotting) and darkness.

Being salt and light will be a good thing but it's irritating for the world in two ways: as the world looks at us and the blessing God gives (in our families, in our disciplined lives, in our God given ability to live above our circumstances, in our unwillingness to go along with the cruelties and negativity that others pour out upon others) there is an (1) irritation that comes from jealousy; plus there is an (2) irritation that comes from the healing process (such as what happens when I gargle with salt and it hurts my throat) and the call for repentance (like when light shines on attitudes in my life I want to keep hidden).  There is no limit to the amount of salt and light that God desires to pour out of us!

In the world we are called, as much as is possible (Romans 12:17-18) to live in peace with everyone so, in the world, there is a certain loving caution (but not hiding!) that's needed--but when we gather for worship God desires that we be free from that caution.  Here we can be filled with the Word and the Holy Spirit without fear or restraint.

Jesus irritated the religious and the irreligious (Jews and Romans) and they killed him for it.  The disciples had the same experience.

Still, God does open doors!  God does give good favor for the salt and light that we ARE!  We shouldn't be ashamed to pray that the Lord will give us a good reputation so we are not tempted to gain that good reputation by compromise or planning to get it.  Our example and our life is in Christ, who spent time with His Father and did receive favor with some.
Please pray that the message of the Lord will be pure!  Pray that God will give favor to all who preach and share.


Monday, October 7, 2013

What We Learned

Yesterday several gathered at 9:00 for our regular Sunday morning Bible study. We gathered to study Acts 15:1-21.  One of the questions in the study (click here to see it) was
  • How could your church follow [the example from Acts 15] in dealing with issues that trouble the church?
We asked the participants to say what they saw in Acts 15:1-21 that went on as the first Christians were working through a difficult issue.  Here is the list I made from what was said then with some of my notes...
+ Get Together - The leaders in Acts 15 traveled so they could be together face-to-face with those who were at the center of the disagreement.  This means there was no quick resolution to the problem.  They needed to be patient.
+ Debate - It would have been interesting to hear, but perhaps not very pleasant.  There was "disputing" and "dissension."  Differences of opinion came out into the open.
+ Leadership - Those who spoke and debated were well respected leaders among the believers.
+ Focus - the leaders focused the discussion on the good news of Jesus and the many souls that needed to be saved.  Peter did this in verses 7-11.
+ Testimony & Evidence - Paul and Barnabas spoke about the wonderful and miraculous things God had been doing.
+ Silence & Listening - everyone was not talking at once.  There was time for listening and for silence.  Prayer does not need to be mentioned because these Godly leaders were constantly in prayer.  They listened and waited.
+ Scripture - they found their agreement in the written Word of God.
+ Communication - the agreement was written and distributed.
Interestingly, the agreement they came to was not a "final" sort of thing.  You'll find evidence in the New Testament that some of the issues that they were debating and arguing about continued.  But they were willing to continue to be together as they sought further clarity in the Word of God.

How can these bullet points help us as we face the Crossroads we are at now?


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Tomorrow's Bible Study

Often I don't look carefully at the Bible study that Marc Keith sends out in advance of our 9:00 AM Sunday morning together at Crossroads but this time I did; and I'm SO glad.  I am praising God for this sign of His foreknowledge and grace that he is POURING out upon us as we navigate another stage in our life together as body of believers.  We NEVER need to be afraid!

The study is on Acts 15:1-21.  Here are the questions:
  • Open It
    When faced with a problem, do you want someone else to solve it, or do you like to figure out for yourself what you should do? Why?
    *What is most challenging to you about enforcing rules?
    When you think your opinion is right, how do you tend to express your view?
  • Explore It
    *Who came to Antioch? Why? (15:1)
    What were the men from Judea teaching the Christians? (15:1)
    On what did the men of Judea base their theology? (15:1)
    How did Paul and Barnabas respond to the teaching problem at Antioch? (15:2)
    *How did the apostles determine to resolve the problem in Antioch? (15:2)
    What were the apostles’ experiences on their way to Jerusalem? (15:3)
    When Paul and Barnabas arrived in Jerusalem, how did the church receive them?
    What did the believing Pharisees say? (15:5)
    How did the church leaders respond to the Pharisees? (15:6)
    What did Peter say to the party of the Pharisees? (15:7-11)
    What did Paul and Barnabas add to Peter’s testimony? (15:12)
    *How did James summarize his views? (15:13-21)
    How did James deal with the circumcision question from a biblical standpoint?
    What practical judgment did James make? (15:19-21)
    What did James mean by his concluding statement? (15:21)
  • Get It
    *What was wise about using a council to deal with the thorny issue of how non-Jews could be saved?
    How was the problem of this council larger than the issue of circumcision?
    *When dealing with difficult issues, what do we need to include in the decision-making process?
    Why were Paul, Barnabas, Peter, and James the right men to resolve the conflict?
    How could your church follow the council’s approach in dealing with issues that trouble the church?
    What areas of your faith create conflict within you?
    What beliefs or practices do Christians add to the gospel?
    How can we remind ourselves to require of new believers only what God requires?
  • Apply It
    *Where can you get help resolving an issue about which you are unsure?
    This week, what change in your schedule can you make to allow enough time for
    studying God’s Word?
Marc sends these to us each week with the scriptures and two commentaries.  The entire package (8 pages) can be accessed here.

Please pray that whenever we face differences we will confidently trust that the Lord is going to lead us through them, not matter how thorny the issue(s) may be.