Thursday, May 29, 2014

Words of Encouragement

The following are from the Crossroads Community Church facebook group.  I am so encouraged by the brothers and sisters who are a part of our church!

First something written by Steve Basney.
Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God” (Mark 11:22). Jesus was teaching His disciples how to deal with and influence the natural world through supernatural means. It all begins with faith in God. Faith moves mountains, receives God’s promises, and brings to birth God’s plans in the earth.

'And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak' (2 Corinthians 4:13). If you have the Holy Spirit you have the spirit of faith at work within you. The Holy Spirit wants us to look beyond negative circumstances, where we have pity parties and are negative and critical. He points us to God and His promises and stirs us to believe, pray, and proclaim those promises. The spirit of faith raises our expectations and confidence in the Lord. This faith brings us into alignment with God and releases miracles in our lives.

Of the twelve spies who went into Canaan (Numbers 13) only Joshua and Caleb had a spirit of faith. They looked beyond the obstacles to victory and said, “God can do it!”

Likewise when the Israelite armies faced Goliath they were paralyzed with fear. But young David had a spirit of faith; “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” It was the same Goliath but two different approaches.

The obstacles in obtaining the promised land were real, the giant Goliath was real (we are to face reality-not live in denial), the various challenges that you and I face are very real, but the person with a spirit of faith looks to a higher reality and lives expecting victory! The victories may not come overnight, but they will come.

I encourage and challenge you- don’t live in the mulligrubs: don’t complain and criticize. Fill your heart with God’s word, take hold of His truth and His promises. Fight the fight of faith. Press forward. Expect answers to prayer. Expect breakthroughs. Expect healings and miracles. Have a spirit of faith. Expect your tests to become testimonies. Expect and plan for your setbacks to be turned to comebacks. Expect God to move mightily! "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him" (2 Chronicles 16:9).

“Faith sings in the heart, no matter what assaults the soul.” – Lester Sumrall

~ SB
And secondly something from Don Begarowicz:
Let me share Proverbs 12:25. However as always read the whole chapter as it is very profound.  "Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up."

I have found that kindness often confounds men who are looking for evil or bad in any given situation. A kind word and a prayer goes a long way to make the most evil tempered individual calmer. Not true in all cases but in most. The next time someone attacks you in any way just speak honestly and pray quietly or ask if they would like to pray about the situation. It is just amazing how prayer can often defuse the most uncomfortable situation.

Even if you walk from the situation unresolved you have asked the great 'I Am' to comfort and love. Be blessed my brothers and sisters. Have an awesome week. Big Don.

Just a heads up in the event you would like to join a fun group on Monday nights come over to the Campgrounds and up to the residence 7:00pm and get refreshed with other Christians in prayer and digging into the word we often have worship as well.
How good it is when we can encourage one another with the Word of God!  Looking forward to seeing many of you on Sunday morning for Bible Study and Worship, or on Monday at Begarowiczes' for "Holy Spirit Christian Camaraderie"!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Prayer 1 of 31

Earlier today the Lord moved me to bring copies of a book Pray the Word: 31 Prayers that Touch the Heart of God to a local business, handing them out to people I know there.  I invited them to join me in prayer for 31 days using those prayers.

Consider joining in!  If you would like a copy of the book, please pick one up at Crossroads or go to this link for a copy available online in pdf format.

Here is the Day One prayer:

Your Love Endures Forever
Consider praying this prayer out loud as a declaration of praise . . .

I will give thanks to you, O Lord, and call on Your name.  I will make known among the nations--in this nation--the amzing things that You have done.  I will sing to You and praise You alone.  Teach me what it mans to "glory in Your name" that my heart might always rejoice in You.  For it is my great desire to seek Your face alays and remember the wonders that You have done.
     I give thanks to You, Lord, for You are good. Your love endures forever!
     You remembered me when I was lost and without You and freed me from the enemy! Your love endures forever!
     While I was still in my sin, Christ died for me! Hallelujah! Your love endures forever!
     You have not kept a record of my sin, or treat me as my sin deserves, but through Christ You have removed my sin from me as far as the east is from the west and remember it no more! Hallelujah! Your faithful love endures forever!
     I will bless Your name, O Lord, and in Your name I will lift up my hands, for Your faithful love endures forever!
     I will praise You, O Lord, there is no God like You in heaven or on earth--You who keep Your covenant of love with Your servants who continue wholeheartedly in Your way.  There is nothing too difficult for You!  Your love endures forever!
    Yours is the greatness O Lord and the power and the glory and the majesty and the spendor, for everything in heaven and earth is Yours. You are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from You alone for You are the ruler of all thigns.  In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.  And I join with all of heaven, and Your people everywhere in giving You thanks and praising Your glorious name!  Hallelujah!  Amen and Amen!

Psalm 105:1-5; Psalm 136:1-9,23-24; Romans 5:6; Psalm 103:10-12; Psalm 63:4; 2 Chronicles 6:14; 1 Chronicles 29:10-13 (click here to read the verses)

(Thank you to the "someone" who donated the books to our church.  They are available also at Prayer Shop - click here.)

Crossroads Community Church was founded on Prayer and God's Faithfulness.  We invite you to join us for prayer on Tuesday evenings and, of course, at many other times.  Go here to learn more.

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Quiet Spot

There are about 10 people at "the cabin" tonight. I'm thankful to have a place to be up for awhile where I won't disturb anyone too much.  I'm enjoying the quiet and some time reading the introduction to one of the books I was given for my birthday last week: Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus by Robert Farrar Capon.  I'm also enjoying connecting with some brothers and sisters via facebook (and learning from them as I do). 

I appreciate this time of extended rest, even though my part in being here involved work (washing a few windows and screens). I continue to be blessed by the Living the Dream message series that the "network" outlined a few months ago and that I'm privileged to share in with Crossroads these days. The series has blessed me so much, and I continue to reflect back on the May 11 message shared with the church by Steve Basney, the one based on the last verse of the resurrection chapter in First Corinthians (15:58).  What a blessing it is to have the Word of God in mind always.

Besides all that, I'm thinking of so many dear ones and looking forward to the time when we can be together again.  God gives us connections with people that will last forever, even if, on earth, we are far from each other.  I love you all.

Peace to you in Jesus' name.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Thursday's End

It's the end of a Thursday, for me, as I begin jotting some thoughts at ten after 9.  Toni is back from her time with her brother and her parents -- they had the opportunity to go to northern California, especially to see the giant sequoias.  I've seen a few pictures so far and have heard a few stories.  They had a grand time.

I've been feeling very blessed and busy, though not so busy that I don't have time to have some unscheduled time.  Unscheduled, unplanned time, is, for me, more important for my mental health, and more enjoyable, than scheduling fun things.  I guess that's why I didn't mind sending Toni off to California while I stayed home.

We're counting down the days until the end of the Dassel-Cokato school year.  One more day this week, four next and then three during the first week of June and we'll be done until fall.  Every year I need to decide if I'm going to re-up for another year of driving the school bus route.  Some parts of that job I really enjoy but the constancy of it (every week, 5 mornings, 5 afternoons) makes it hard to be enthusiastic all the time.  It is that consistency, however, that allows me to have a relationship with the 40-50 kids who ride my bus regularly.  If I gave up the route and just subbed I would miss that, and I think they'd miss me.

Right now I'm sitting in the kitchen writing this.  It's nice to have an unscheduled evening at home.  On Monday I was at Begarowiczes' for "Holy Spirit Christian Camaraderie," on Tuesday there was prayer ministry, on Wednesday, yesterday night, we were blessed with an unexpected service project with our youth (you go Holy Spirit! wow!).  Earlier this evening I was able to get the lawn mowing finished and we were blessed with a visit from some children who used to live right up the block from us.  And Toni fed me a wonderful dinner.  Yay!

Besides dealing with what Jesus brings my way every day, I've been able to help Crossroads make some plans for June.  I'm hoping and PRAYING (a lot) that SOMEHOW we'll be able to continue to connect personally and spiritually as a church family throughout the summer.  I've thought about doing some teaching on what the Lord has been telling me (see previous post on "The Vine") but I might just stick to praying.  Will you pray with me that a godly desire for spiritual togetherness will be shared by many this summer?  Thank you.

This has been a bit rambly, but it's the best I can do for now.  Time to hit the hay.  I got less sleep than normal last night, and, as I've said many times in the last almost 3 years of bus driving, morning comes early.  Good night.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Vine

"I am the true vine," says Jesus, "and my Father is the vinedresser … As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me… As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full."

At our Thursday morning pastors’ prayer meeting the Lord gave us those words from John 15.  I've been mulling them over, praying about them, thinking about them, and relating them to my life, and our life as a church.

So a bit ago I wrote this on facebook:
"Is Jesus the vine or just the trunk of the vine in John 15? I ask because many believers have little respect for the vine as a whole, composed, as it is, of many branches. I'm not too familiar with grapevines, but, as I look at them, it's hard to say what is a branch and what is 'the vine.' It seems to me that every branch actually becomes part of the vine and thereby, as members of Christ himself, the relationships in the body/vine/church become holy too, and not just one's personal one-on-one relationship with Jesus. Can you comment?"
Jon Zens replied:
"It seems that there is both the reality of distinctness (He is the source) and an intense, mysterious unity (where does the Vine end and the branch begin?) The NT views our relationship with Christ primarily in terms of a joined-together body, not in an individualistic way. The beauty of this body is that the uniqueness of each part can fully function in an environment of deep interdependence."
And I wrote back:
"Sadly, in the clergy centered church world that most of us have known, individual believers don't value their relationships with one another as much as God wants them to, or they value them in a sentimental way that doesn't connect with God's truth. I think (and I might be wrong about this) that Jesus spoke of the vine partly BECAUSE most of a grapevine looks like a tangled mass of branches and leaves (and fruit in season) where it's a challenge to sort out what parts are connected where. Not only does this make it hard to impose hierarchy on it, the "vine image" makes it clear that the relationships within are of absolute importance because there is no clear or direct connection with the trunk for each of the branches WITHOUT APPRECIATING THOSE OTHER BRANCHES and members as the means by which I and others are fed from the trunk. Too many people want ONLY (or almost only) a one-on-one personal relationship with God that does not respect what God says in this John 15 image (and the other pictures of divine life), or, worse, they prioritize a one-on-one relationship with their pastor. Horror."
We'll see what other comments come as we go along.  Feel free to comment below.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

We Have Received. Will We Now Give?

Jon & Breanna (our youngest and his wife) graduated from North Central University yesterday.  Also, yesterday, during our celebration for that, Jon got a call from DaVita letting him know that he got the job he had interviewed for.  Last weekend we had helped them move from their university apartment to a condo in southern Hopkins.

Today, we joined a bunch of our daughter Naomi and husband Tim's friends and relatives as they helped them move from their apartment to a house in Roseville.  Toni worked hard out in the yard while I did a bit in the house.  I inaugurated their new bedroom with a nice nap.  My assessment: the house sleeps well.  Then we drove back down to my brother's to pick up the rotor-tiller that he had borrowed last year.  We arrived home about 6:00.  A very nice weekend so far!

In the midst of this, I've been talking with our son Dan about the amazingly huge GRACE that God showers on the world because of his great love.  The LOVE of God is so HUGE that it is SCANDALOUS!  It leaves NO ONE out!  Wow!  (I'm looking forward to celebrating that tomorrow with our beloved ones at Crossroads.  Come and be with us as we share together.  Looking forward to bible study at 9 and a message to be shared via Steve Basney at 10:15 worship.)

Moms know about giving.  Here in the USA at least tomorrow is Mother's Day.  My mom's health isn't very strong these days.  Yesterday we prayed for her as we gathered to celebrate Jon & Breanna's graduation.  Still, in the midst of all this family stuff, Holy Spirit pushes me to think of other mothers that I know whose lives are harder than any of us probably know -- mothers who suffer beyond what might seem "normal," mothers who really could use a touch of love from me and you.  

As we (and I) have receive so much grace and love, we (and I) have a lot to give.  Unfortunately, believers in Jesus (me too) can get so caught up in build a little private "family kingdom" where none of our closest loved ones suffers real need.  (Our son Jon said yesterday that he and his wife could never "fall through the cracks" because of how many caring family members they have.)  Disciples of Jesus--we have a greater calling--not to neglect our own moms but to reach out to others too, especially to those who don't have the same support system as our own.

How is God calling you to reach out to a mom that isn't your own mom?  How is God calling you to reach out to anyone who needs the kind of unconditional love God gives--a love that can only be reflected a bit by our own mothers.  Ask God tonight.  How would you want me to reach out tomorrow?  Ask that question tonight and pray that Holy Spirit will provide a good opportunity to let the wonderful grace and love of God flow out to others.

We love because Christ first loved us.  To those whom much is given, much will be required.  Words straight from the heart of God.  God's peace and love to all tonight and tomorrow, in Jesus' name.

Monday, May 5, 2014

More Change, More Faithfulness

"The LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations." (Psalm 100)
I haven't been able to get myself to write much since early in April.  I have wanted to but I haven't yet found the right time; or, perhaps better said, I haven't yet had the deep sense of peace that I need to write what's been on my heart and mind ever since I learned of the turmoil that my friends and partners in ministry have been through.  A lot has changed since the first week of April -- not directly with me -- but  in the lives and teamwork of men and women that I have appreciated so much over the past 3 years.*

I've been so thankful for this team.  Most of them have been on the leadership staff of North Heights church** (in Arden Hills and Roseville, a group I've prayed with regularly for 2 years).  I say most of this team have been a part of North Heights simply because that church is so large.  Others are connected too.  At the beginning it was just Community of Hope (Rosemount) and little us in Cokato, but since then pastors from several other churches in the Twin Cities area have joined in for message planning and/or leadership huddles.  The leader of this informal network of churches has been Per Nilsen.  Until last week Per was also senior pastor of North Heights.

What I've been wanting to write about is what's happened with this network of support in the past few weeks.  Most of the staff that I've had direct contact with at North Heights have resigned.***  I've had limited contact with them in the past few weeks so I don't know a lot about what has gone on.  There have been a few days when I've been able to pray with many at our regular early morning prayer time on the phone, but the last two days I phoned in no one was there.  We haven't had our 1:00 PM every-other-Monday leadership huddles and we haven't met in person yet to do the final teamwork on the series of messages based on the Bible book of Nehemiah that were planned for summer.

In talking with Per it sounds like he's thinking that all of these things will begin again, but I'm not sure when, or who all will still want to be included.  Whether or not anyone from North Heights will be involved is something I don't know.  Or, whether the new leadership staff from North Heights will want to keep the network together without Per's leadership is also something I don't know.  It's all in flux right now.  And if it was primarily all these relationships that kept me afloat I'd be in a rough spot.

But the truth is that it is the LORD who is truly faithful.  He will not abandon me.  Because He is with me, I am not afraid even though I do not know what will come next.

I'm taking some practical steps--staying in contact as much as I can with the various individuals, being available for them when they want to talk, holding them all close in prayer.  I've also finally started the official process to join the Alliance of Renewal Churches as an individual member.  Even though I know I'm not alone spiritually, the Lord does give us other human beings and relationships as a part of his work.  He makes us for one another--and we're not only called to love the LORD our God with everything we are and all that we have, but we are also to love others as we love ourselves.

Continue to pray for all of us as we walk through these changes with our faithful God.


* Back in early 2011, around the time I was coming on as Crossroads (part time) pastor, the "launch team" was getting some simple organizational matters in place.  We got some ideas from other churches, including ideas about bylaws from Community of Hope (church), where Per Nilsen serves as lead pastor.  In addition to his work at COH, Per had been at the time, recently installed as senior pastor at North Heights (church) -- a much larger Christian community with a long history and association with the charismatic movement and "Lutheran Renewal" -- the organization that sponsored the 1980 event where I first heard God's call to serve as a pastor. 

** I got particularly connected with the North Heights staff because for two years we got together on the phone for prayer 5 days a week at 6:30.  I didn't always call in, and during this last year I've been less faithful, mostly because of a change in my school bus driving schedule, but even so it's been a comfort to know that I have been welcomed and appreciated as a part of this team.  Jean Bearden, Marcus Haug, Jo Saxton, Chris Saxton, Eric Bluhm, Phil Mather, Bob Burmeister, Mindy Bak, Per Nilsen and perhaps others that I've forgotten have been a part of this prayer group, at least part of the time.  Besides them, Steve Wiese and Greg Berglund have participated in the message planning group that I mentioned above.

*** I'm not going to try and dissect what all led to the staff changes there.  My guess is that it's complicated.  The current pastoral staff has put me in contact with the "board of elders" there and I look forward to talking with them.