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 ( 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.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

What God Is Doing

Do you seek to know what GOD is doing in your life?  Do you pray and read scripture and ask what it is that GOD is up to through the circumstances you are passing through?  Do believe He is up to something?

A powerful promise in the Bible says that God is working for good in all the happenings of my life and yours when we love Him and are "called according to His purposes" (Romans 8:28).

Therefore, instead of reacting to circumstances or immediate feelings or just doing what seems right on according to our own opinions, it's SO important for me and you to stop and pray before changing course.

Therefore, before reacting or acting, we will stop and pray, asking God:
  • What are you doing in _______?" [this or that situation] 
  • What do you want me/us to learn?
  • What directions do you have for me/us?
  • Where are you leading?
  • Give us/me the courage to follow you!
The Crossroads theme verse, Jeremiah 6:16, reminds us of this.  We come to a moment of decision.  We stop and look, asking "where the good way is."  That "good way," of course, is determined, not by us, but by God.

When we stop and look and ask and then walk in the way God has chosen, we will not be tossed about by scheming or pushed by people (Ephesians 4:14).

We will then find rest for our souls.