Monday, April 28, 2014

3dm and North Heights

"I have staked my life on the Word of God.  I need to be convinced by Scripture when it comes to what I support and what I teach.  Like the 'popes and councils' of Martin Luther's day, pastors and councils of elders can easily fall into error.  That's why we need need to be continually corrected by the Word, centered in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.  I hope that's what will happen tonight or in the future at North Heights, among all of its people, and among all of those who have been blessed by the "network" and/or by 3dm."
I wrote that [above] earlier this morning to a friend who has invited me to be her guest (with her husband) at a meeting tonight that will be held at North Heights church.  That church's "council of elders" has decided to remove a ministry called "3dm" from their church.  Their lead pastor has resigned along with 8 other staff members (including at least 5 other ministry leaders).  This matters to me because I have worked with many of those staff members (and others who are staying at North Heights) over the past several years.

I don't know what all has come into this decision.  I would ask your prayers.  I don't like to drive all the way to the cities for evening meetings because I need to get up early the next morning for bus driving, but I may choose to do so tonight.  Please pray.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Some of the Work We Do

Crossroads Community Church does significant work with people (families, couples and others) in need in the Dassel-Cokato area.

We don't just hand money out, we develop long term relationships, spend much time in prayer and ministry, help people find and keep employment, housing and education, encourage them to do all they can to "help themselves" and help them find medical, psychological, spiritual and financial assistance in coordination with professionals and county and state agencies (including law enforcement). 

Many of those we work with live lives that are complicated with physical illnesses and handicaps, histories of abuse, broken or difficult family relationships (often since childhood), addictions, and the long lasting consequences of past sins, crimes and actions that they now regret.  PLEASE PRAY for those we work with!  If you want I can give you more information about them so you can pray specifically.

We need your help. Consider designating a gift to the Crossroads "Discretionary Fund." Give through the offering on Sunday or send a check to Crossroads Community Church, P.O. Box 295, Cokato, MN 55321.

One reason we do this work is that our corner of Wright and Meeker counties does not have "county services" that are easily accessible by those who do not have the $ necessary for reliable transportation. 

Please pray and consider an extra gift this week. I can provide more information about the people we're serving if you ask and can give you information about just how your gift will be used.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Preparing for Thursday

On Thursday of this week we'll gather at Crossroads to share the Lord's Supper.  Thursday is "the night in which he [Jesus] was betrayed."  We call it Maundy* Thursday but this day goes by many other names. It's the night when we remember, in words and actions, what Jesus did on that night before he was arrested.

Several of our young people have been learning about the Lord's Supper in recent weeks, and, for some, Thursday will be the first time they will receive the bread and the wine (or juice -- we give an option at our church).  There is no rule about when children may begin partaking of the "elements" of communion, the bread and wine.  That's a decision we leave to parents.  I emailed the parents about details today (Monday).

This gift of God, given through Jesus, known as communion or "the Lord's Supper" or "eucharist" etc. is not something that can be completely explained on this earth.  There are so many understandings of it.  Go to the links found at "Lord's Supper (disambiguation)" on Wikipedia for a sample.

Christian believers do agree, however, that "it is reenacted in accordance with Jesus' instruction at the Last Supper, as recorded in several books of the New Testament, that his followers do in remembrance of him as when he gave his disciples bread, saying, 'This is my body,' and gave them wine saying, 'This is my blood.'"  We will certainly do that on Thursday!

As I write today I'm considering and praying about some of the specifics of how the Lord may be leading us to share communion and the Word of God on this particular Maundy Thursday.

We are going through a series of messages on the Ten Commandments (counting backwards from ten) and we have a decision to make about whether to address the remaining commandment(s) on Thursday or on Easter Sunday or both.  Right now I'm inclined to focus on different aspects of these commandments on each day: the prohibition of having other gods or worshiping "images" (a.k.a. idols) on Thursday and the celebration of having a God who saves us on Sunday.

I'm drawn the issue of "not having other gods" in connection with communion because believers in Jesus are often attached to a particular way of sharing communion.  We have learned that at Crossroads because a few months ago we heard that some people (I have no idea how many) had a desire to share communion in one way.  That "way" is as follows:
  • Everyone who wants communion comes to the front and receives the bread and wine from a communion server.  To do this everyone stands in line. At some churches there is a place provided for people to kneel while they receive, eat, drink and pray.  At other churches (such as at Crossroads) the people eat and drink as they get to the front (while standing in line).
We have experimented with a variety of other ways of sharing communion, for example:
  • The bread and wine are handed down the aisles and each person takes their share (a piece of bread and a little cup of wine/juice) and hold the bread and wine in their hands until all can eat and drink together as the appropriate scripture is read.
  • Once or twice we put small tables around the church with bread and wine/juice on each one and had families and others share together as the scriptures were read.
  • A few times we have invited people to come individually to the altar/table to take the bread and wine on their own, communing with God one on one.
So the question is, when do "habits" become more than habits?  When do "attachments" do the ways we do things become idols, that is, when do they start to become so ingrained that switching the way the communion is done make it seem like we're not truly sharing the Lord's Supper at all?

Please pray for us as we prepare.

* More about the word "Maundy" toward the bottom of a 2012 post called "Healing Communion."

Looking Ahead

(I'm submitting this to the Dassel-Cokato Enterprise-Dispatch as one of their weekly pastor's columns.  I think it will appear in that next week)

If you're like me you will often be tempted to worry about what is going to happen in the days to come.  I'm writing this column at the beginning of Holy Week (the week before Easter) and I can sense that temptation.  There are too many things coming up this week--too many responsibilities--too many things to do.  How will I handle it all?

But the Lord comes to me with his promise: Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)  Cast all your anxieties on God, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:5)  Do not be anxious about anything, but pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all He has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your heart and your mind--in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

So I will rest in God's promises, and do my work with full trust in God's promises--promises for today, for tomorrow, and for the rest of my life here--and for eternity!  I will trust God's promise today and throughout this week.  God invites and encourages you to do the same!  He will bless you when you do.

And if you lack trust, get to know JESUS!  Let me know if I can help you in any way.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Setting People Free to Follow Jesus

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to religious requirements. Jesus has paid all that is necessary to save us and bless us. Believe it! It's so good!

Pray for any brothers or sisters in Christ who are not fully aware of the freedom Jesus gives.

Especially tonight pray for young people who may feel religious pressure instead of hearing Christ's call as a sweet invitation to a blessed and full life. 

And pray for parents and grandparents and other elders who are being called by God to that narrow road between letting their children and youth do "whatever" and controlling them too much.

(See Galatians 5.)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Grace of This Day

Toni and I got back into town (Cokato) about 30 minutes ago after going in to spend some time in the "Cities" today.  One of my sisters and her husband had invited us to the Theater in the Round so we went to a performance and then stayed after for a discussion with the cast and director.  Then we went up to see the home that my daughter and husband are planning to purchase and ended up going for a walk with them and my sister/brother in law at Como Park. 

During that time we got a call from my son Jon (married to Breanna) telling us that their car had been stolen and recovered, but soon after we learned that the thief (or thieves) had fled from the police in their car and that the car was "totaled."  We don't know details yet but I'm asking prayers of protection for my son and his wife and their child (to be born in August).  After our walk in the park my sister and her husband and their son brought us to a restaurant where we had dinner.  Then we drove home.

Before all that we had a good morning in the Word of God.  I was thankful for the way God worked to put a special time of worship together  Several people came forward for prayer and we heard a message on Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy -- which we do by being bathed in the Word of God.  I'm thankful for those who led worship and preached today and I'm praying that we would allow God to mold the patterns of our lives according to His Word and His Spirit and NOT according to the ways of the world. 

Anyway, I just wanted to say "hi" at the end of this good day.  I am praising God for His immeasurable grace and the abundance of His love that we experienced.  I'm so thankful for the promises of God that we can all trust in no matter what happens on any given day.  Let's share all the Lord has given us, spiritually and materially, so we grow in that trust and banish fear.

Peace to you in Jesus' name.

Friday, April 4, 2014

God's Not Dead

some of the 40 in the Hutchinson theater lobby
On Wednesday evening, thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit, a group of 30 youth, plus some of their adult leaders, parents and friends from the DC area (about 40 in all) were blessed with a "field trip" to Hutchinson where we saw the movie "God's Not Dead."

Besides the movie itself, God showed himself as He inspired one of our adults to (1) notice that the movie was playing at a time that would work for our group and (2) sent a text message to some of the other adults involved with our youth.
I'm praising God that I work alongside Holy Spirit filled women and men who don't mind a "last minute" change of plans.  As you can see, the idea came to us on Monday morning, only two days before.  Thank you Jesus for these friends and partners in the gospel!

It doesn't always work as smoothly as it did this time.  Sometimes we'll share ideas that will take longer to act upon.  I do, however, want to send this as an encouragement to act when the Holy Spirit speaks to you, to not remain silent, to let the Lord take control.

I'd like to write more, but my snow shovel is calling!  School is two hours late and it'll take awhile to get the car out of the driveway I think.

 God's Not Dead!  Look for Him in action today!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

On Sunday, after the Snow...

view from church building office looking east
We have a spring snowstorm that's just beginning. Cars and trucks are whipping by out on Hwy 12. It may not be so easy come tomorrow morning.

BUT IT IS SPRING!  It won't be long until we're warming up!  By this weekend it will be in the 40s and next week in the 50s!  YAY!  Praise God!  Don't despair!  New life is on it's way!

Besides the change in the weather, we're looking forward to a special morning on Sunday.  Worship will be led by Don Begarowicz and a group of others who he's gotten to know over the last few years through our church.  (See below for more about Don & his wife Robin.)

I wanted to give a heads up on how we're planning to proceed on Sunday. 

One thing we've learned as we've been studying scripture together in various groups for the last year or more is that the way we typically do our Sunday morning service isn't really "set" or "commanded" by God.  Therefore, from time to time we have changed things up a bit and we plan to do that this Sunday (as we announced on March 30).  We want everyone to be as comfortable as possible so we're sharing this now.

Here's what we're looking forward to on Sunday morning April 6:
  • After a song and our "church family time" with some explanation of the day, we'll begin with the first part of the Lord's Supper -- "On the night he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, 'This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.'"
  • This Sunday's homemade bread will be gluten free.
  • The New Testament tells how the disciples came together to share the Lord's word with a meal.  Our Sunday April 6 "meal" will be the Word itself.  We live 'by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.' (Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4).
After the first part of communion -
  • Don will share his personal testimony to how God has been at work in his life.
  • We'll have some time for prayer ministry, for worship in song and offering.
  • Then Don will share a message on Remembering the Sabbath to Keep it Holy.  This will be part of the series we're sharing on the Ten Commandments.  Click here to learn more. 
  • Toward the end of the service we will share the wine (or grape juice as an alternative) as we see in the Word of God: "In the same manner He (Jesus) also took the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.'  For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes."  This will be the "second part" of communion.
Those who will be leading worship on Sunday would like to encourage everyone to get involved in spiritual growth beyond our weekly time of worship.  It is through participating in these prayer and study opportunities that we are set free to share the Lord's love in a variety of ways, including what we will share this coming Sunday.

Some of these spiritual Growth opportunities are:
+ Daily Prayer and Bible reading - check out the resources available on a table near our building entrance.
+ Sunday morning Bible study
+ Monday evening "Christian Camaraderie" at the Begarowicz home.
+ Tuesday evening prayer (here) or Bible study at Morris Excavating.
+ Wednesday evening youth and "JAM" and the women's study at Denise Ertl's.

Now, as I promised above, I'll take time to say a little more about the Begarowiczes because they are relatively new to the Cokato area. I appreciate both Don and Robin so much.  They are friendly, positive, hard-working, "get it done" people who I've grown to trust since they first appeared in our community in 2011.

Christmas 2011
Don (on your right, back row)
Robin (also on your right, front row)
Don and Robin came to the DC area back in 2011 (my guess) to be resident managers at the Cokato Lake RV Resort and Campground.  Not only did they jump in and sing with our choir that year, and not only have they become key leaders in our church (Robin on the board of directors and Don as an indispensable member of our Audio-Visual crew, not to mention the ones who have decorated the church for Christmas two years in a row!) they've taken Holy Spirit powered initiative to form the already mentioned "Holy Spirit Christian Camaraderie" at their home, inviting any and all on Monday evenings for conversation, worship, prayer and scripture study.  It's been great!

I am very much looking forward to Sunday, after the snow.  I hope you are too.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Place to Live

I am doing my best to help a couple find a place to live in Buffalo, MN. They are both employed but their income is limited. Challenging issues make it difficult for them to qualify for regular subsidized housing. Please pray and if you have any ideas please email me or call me at 763-291-3499. Thank you.