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.