Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Word from the Lord

Hebrews 2:1–3 says this
"We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard..."
On Thursday of last week a member of our church board of directors sent me the following devotional message based on the passage above.  It was originally written by Dr. Charles Stanley and distributed by "In Touch" ministries:
The Signs of Drifting
Hebrews 2:1-3
     Regularly gathering in the house of the Lord with brothers and sisters in Christ provides an "anchor" of support and accountability. But skipping church in order to pursue other interests is an obvious sign that a believer has begun to drift away from God. Less apparent are the men and women who mentally skip the worship service. The act of attending means nothing unless we make a deliberate decision to receive God's Word and apply it to our life. As the writer of Hebrews warned, if we do not pay attention to what we have heard, we will drift away from it (2:1).
     However, Sunday morning is not the only time for receiving a steady diet of nourishing principles and encouragement from the Bible. We should be in its pages every day, reading and meditating for ourselves. When our interest in what God has to say decreases, we're already slipping out into troublesome waters. The only way to keep our way pure is by following His Word (Ps. 119:9).
     If Bible reading is neglected, a prayer life has usually faded as well. Prayer is the way believers communicate with the Navigator. If we stop talking with Him, the God who once seemed so close soon feels far away. That chasm in our spirit is one more sign that we're far from shore and safety.
     I've watched many a captain guide his cruise ship through a narrow channel. The crew members are intensely focused on their tasks because drifting means disaster. Life is full of narrow channels to navigate. We cannot afford to drift away from God and His Word. Only He can bring us safely through.
The person sending me this message then said:
"He's talking to me..."
When I read it, I thought it was, indeed, a good word from the Lord.  A good word of warning that we need to pray about--not only now in summer, but also during other times of the year as we choose other activities for ourselves and our children--activities other than gathering with other Christians for worship and mutual encouragement. 

Because I thought it was a good word, not from me, but from the Lord, I asked each of our board members at Crossroads to read it over and give their permission to have it sent out in their name, that is, in the name of the whole board.  It's also printed on the back of the bulletin that people will get when they come to worship on Sunday.

So, is the Lord speaking to you in this?  Pray and discuss it with your family.  Is God calling you to take some action, to make a change?  Remember - this message is not from me as a pastor.  It's from the Lord.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sunday Practice

On July 20 we presented a message called "Sharing Jesus," part of our ongoing "Do It Yourself" series.

The message was introduced by a silly little video featuring "Ben and Ky," a video that is a sort of spoof or parody of "DIY" presentations that can be found on television and online.  The video can be found at the link above. 

In the video Ky is trying to present some information about tools--tools like wrenches and metal files and "hearing protection"... but, each time Ky starts talking about a tool, Ben relates it to Jesus.  Ben does that, however, without relating to Ky... he pushes Jesus in a way that has Ky walking away -- "exit stage right."

That video was a silly way of saying what NOT to do when it comes to telling others about Jesus... but, as I said on Sunday, "at least Ben tried."  Then I asked this question:
Are we more fearful of being annoying
than we are willing to obey Jesus
and share his love and his name with the world.
Think about it.
  • How do you obey the great commission?  
  • How do you share the good news of Jesus?  
  • How do you share Jesus in a way helps your friends say "YES" to him, to surrender to him, to stop fighting and give in to him, receiving, at the same time, his gift--"eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord."
Often we just don't.  We don't share the good news of Jesus.  Often we're just quiet and hope someone will guess, or hear about Jesus somewhere else.

There are lots of reasons for that silence about Jesus and his salvation. Sometimes it's a lack of confidence.  Sometimes we don't think we'll be understood.  Both of those things can be overcome with a bit of practice--and it's practice that I'm planning on leading as part of the July 27 message.

Many disciples of Jesus, unfortunately, think that sharing Jesus is something that is best left to "experts,"  that is, to people like me.  And so, sadly, believers in Jesus start focusing more on "bringing their friends to church," or taking them to a Christian concert or big evangelistic event, or giving them a book or sharing a recording... almost anything other than sharing about Jesus with them directly, face to face.

And that causes lots of problems.  It causes problems, NOT because the church, properly understood, is a bad thing.  It's not bad at all.  In fact, it's the greatest blessing and a foretaste of heaven!  And wonderful speakers, musicians and authors can be really helpful. Still, they are not a good replacement for the words and prayers of a dear friend like you.

Here's the difficulty: 
  1. Powerful preachers, musicians and authors are so good at what they do that at least some of the attention goes on them!  That's even true when these excellent presenters want to put all the attention on JESUS.  (Paul describes this problem in First Corinthians chapter 1 and the remedy in chapter 2). 

    And also, 
  2. "the church," generally speaking, is not "properly understood."  People generally think of churches as voluntary associations of religious people--and so, when Christians bring their undecided friends "to church" those friends end up liking, or disliking, those "religious people" and their associations and their ways of life--or their leaders and pastors--instead of focusing on God's love and God's truth.
That's one reason (or two reasons) believers need to be prepared to "Do It Yourself" when it comes to sharing Jesus with their friends, not to mention the multiplying factor that happens when millions of believers can share about Jesus in a good way.

So, on July 27, we'll practice.  We'll practice gently and respectfully (First Peter 3:15-16) using the same "one verse" tool shared last week. We'll use a "repeat after me" format.  You won't have to interact with anyone--you can just look straight ahead if you want.  It won't be much different than what we did last week, except this time I'll ask you to "repeat after me."  (To hear just what we did last week, listen by clicking here.)

Just this little bit of practice will help you be more confident.  It will help you listen more carefully to what your friend is saying and feeling as you share.  You'll be less focused on yourself and how YOU are feeling.  You'll be a bit more focused on your friend--and his or her need to know the Lord.  You will be more relaxed... and that will help them be more relaxed too... allowing them to focus, not on you, but on Jesus and his love.

Still nervous?  That's okay.  It's NORMAL!  Every time I do anything for the first time I get preoccupied too.  I think back to 3 years ago and the time I drove a school bus loaded with children.  I was so nervous that I took a wrong turn and ended up driving the kids south on County Road 18 instead of north on 6.  Uff da.  But, the next day, after that bit of "practice," it went a lot better.  It was smooth sailing for me, and easier for my passengers too.

See you on Sunday--it will be good.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Church Family Time etc.

The following email went out a few moments ago to folks on an email list.  If you'd like to be on the list for future Crossroads emails just let us know -- email steve at or call 320-286-2100.

Good morning Crossroads Friends -

On Sunday morning several people shared some good updates and some invitations - you can listen to an unedited recording of all these at this link or, for several links to other parts of Sunday' July 13th worship go HERE.

If you couldn't make it on Sunday, or if you would like a reminder of these things, we encourage you to take 15 minutes to listen.  There's no substitute for gathering with brothers and sisters in the Lord, and we aren't polished speakers, but the Holy Spirit is at work through this.

Here are the updates and invitations that were shared - several people spoke:
  1. Thanks to God for His Faithfulness!
  2. The "DIY" series ("Do It Yourself")
  3. Youth & Children's Ministry Interest Survey (since Sunday there has been a special invitation to a cookout for the families with children of Sunday school age children.  If you didn't get an email invitation let us know, we had a "bounce back" on one or more email addresses)
  4. Major upcoming High School outreach event
  5. Thanks to God for a wedding
  6. Matthew Dahlseng's Eagle Award board of review approval and upcoming court of honor
  7. Sat., July 19 Franklin Avenue Mission (Please come! Since Ron gave that announcement we heard there will probably be more people to feed and talk with than we first thought!  Last Saturday, even though it was "raining cats and dogs" they still had people under tents).
  8. Baptism opportunity on Sunday at noon (contact Ron Olson)
  9. Testimony about 6 men coming to Christ through jail ministry
  10. Prayer for Muslims, that as they fast and pray and seek God now during Ramadan that they would actually find God
  11. Prayer for young people who are at Bible camp this week
  12. Prayer for family of Ryan Pettit and financial help for his family (As of very early today $6,820 has been raised for the family at THIS LINK.)
You can see the bulletin from Sunday HERE

Since Sunday morning your board of directors met.  For the last three months we've started our meeting with about an hour of scripture and prayer time.  Here are the scriptures that were shared this Monday evening by the board members present:
  • Isaiah 40:31 (a verse remembered from Bible Study Fellowship studies of a few years ago) "those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
  • Joshua 1:8-9 "Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
  • Second Corinthians 8:7 and 9:6 "since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving" and "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously."
  • Acts 27:33-37 (from last Sunday morning's 9 AM Bible Study) "take some food... they were all encouraged."  This was just before the shipwreck that Paul knew would happen and the God had told Paul that all would survive.
  • First Peter 2:3 about grace, that is, we have "tasted and seen that he Lord is good."
  • First Samuel 17:26b "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy..." and then, two verses later, part of David's reply to his oldest brother who is angry that David has left home to come down to the battle, the King James Version of First Samuel 17:29 has David saying "Is there not a cause?" ... That KJV verse was significant as we prayed that we would know God's good and strong and "fighting" PURPOSE for our lives, as in "isn't there a cause for which we can stand up and give our lives?"  (Other versions don't translate the verse that way but the sense is still there, David does not back down when his older brother scorns him by saying, in effect, go home and take care of the sheep.)
One of the board's actions was to slightly increase the amount that we are giving to missions beyond our own work locally.  Every dollar that we give personally to Crossroads is dedicated to God's mission work, but these dollars will be given to support the work of others.  We'll make available a list of those mission projects as soon as the board minutes have been prepared.

Confident that God's peace and purpose reign in your life today as we pray, in Jesus' name.

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Morning Prayer

Great is your faithfulness, o God my Father, you continually show us how good you are -- especially when we trust you. Help me this day, Lord God, to confidently trust you and follow your leading. Jesus, be my inspiration. Holy Spirit, I look forward to what you will be doing today and in the days to come. I look forward to all you will reveal as I keep pace with you. Help me keep you first in all I do. Help me to say "yes" when it's good. Give me the courage to say "no" when needed, especially to those anxieties and people pleasing pressures come on me. I pray the same for each person who reads this -- especially today and this weekend. I ask also, Father, that you would bring me into harmony with others who are in step with you. Allow us to truly be your body in this time and place. In Jesus' name.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

So Far This Week

Good morning!  We've had two very full days since returning from our family vacation.  In some ways they are typical days for summertime. 

So far this week I have met with:
  • the young men who will be participating in their second week of Leadership Quest (the first week was in 2013), arranging details and reaching out to include another potential participant in the twin cities (if you want to bless the generations to come a financial gift toward our upcoming week of LQ would be welcome!); 
  • our prayer group and a community men's Bible study (I got to the Bible study a half hour late but at least connected with the guys who were there for a bit--it's been quite some time since I made it to that group);
  • two families who challenge us to persistent prayer and care, and with 
  • elders for individual and group prayer and worship at the Cokato Manor.  
Together with others and on my own we have been:
  • discerning God's will for upcoming worship gatherings and studying and doing some message prep,
  • praying for individuals and for our church, for others in our immediate area, and for those we support as missionaries beyond,
  • continuing to participate in "30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World,"
  • reaching out to a family who suffered the death of a dear one,
  • looking into possibilities for future programming,
  • connecting with youth leaders, church board members, and other folks who care about the work God does through Crossroads locally, plus spending time in the "church office" with our administrative assistant,
  • arranging a ride for a person in need and an upcoming conversation with a school district official about teen mental illness issues,
  • getting ready to help load Karl Kruse's organ onto a trailer (today) so he can donate it to a church in Wisconsin (they have an organist but no organ since theirs was it by lightning last month), and
  • doing my best to keep our Crossroads partners and others informed about what's up.
Some of these things take a few minutes, others take up scattered moments throughout the day, and some involve hours of care and prayer.  All of them are directed by the love of God and the "fellowship of the Holy Spirit."  There are lots of other ministry items that come to mind, but most of them just need to be brought to the Lord.  He will provide what's needed and will push me to do my part in his time. 

Personally, I've managed to take start taking care of a few things at home that end up getting neglected because there's always so much going on.  I often say there are never enough hours in the day!  (I suppose that's one reason I end up getting up sometimes in the very early morning.  Don't be concerned, I'll get back to bed in a bit and can often get a nap in at some point.  I'm not one who can get by on little sleep!)

Let's continue in prayer, asking God to provide all that's needed for His Work in our midst.  And thank you for your prayers, your support and your participation in this work.

Reading this again at 9 a.m. I think I could have worded some of this differently to make this clear: Very little of the "work of God" in our midst has anything to do with me personally.  I do get to participate thanks to those who partner with us, but most of the "work of God" goes on without me.  God works directly in supernatural ways that I know nothing about, and God also is at work through so many people in our area, in the every day lives of people who are connected with our church and through many others who are not.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Back In Step

We're in our last day at my in law's summer place.  I took a good long walk this morning and, besides spending time with Toni and Dick & Jo, I listened, for a second time, to the message Karl Kruse shared yesterday at Crossroads in Cokato -- a message called "The Spiritual Rhythm of Prayer."  What he said is worth listening to.  You can access a recording and read a few notes at the webpage do-it-yourself#3.

Now I'm looking ahead to next Sunday.  It's traditional, and generally helpful, to look ahead.  Looking ahead to next Sunday on Monday is a part of the "rhythm" of my life.  It was nice, last week, to be able to step out of that pattern for a bit, but now it's time to step back in.

Personally, I'm not one who tends to get prepared very much in advance.  Oftentimes I'm scrambling up until the last minute to put final touches on my Sunday messages and the visual aids and handouts that we try to provide.  But it is good for me to do a good amount of praying and scripture study now on Monday so, even though I do scramble on Saturday night and Sunday morning, I'm not just putting what "I" think into what I'm getting ready.  Everything has been well soaked in the Word of God and prayer.

What are the spiritual rhythms of your life?  Do you spend time in the Bible every day?  What about your prayer life? (Look back at what Karl shared on June 6 for more on that.)  What about your body?  Do you understand that caring for your physical body is a spiritual thing?  Here are the "rhythms" that our network churches suggest we look at.
  • Bible
    - Heb. 4:14
  • Prayer
    - 2 Chronicles 7:14
  • Physical
    - 1 Corinthians 6:19
  • Relationships
    - Prov. 27:17
  • Generosity
    - Mark 1:38
At this point of my week, I haven't even looked at those scriptures--and I don't know if we'll actually use those points.  Now, on Monday, I'm just doing by best to get a start.

I have, however, looked at the main scripture reading that we planned to use when we were looking at this series in the spring -- it's John 15:1-8 about Jesus being the vine and we being the branches -- and the main point is that you and I need to stay connected in order to "bear fruit," that is, in order to do the good work God calls us to do.  Since you and I are not vines, one of the ways we stay connected with the Lord is to stay in step with Him--to live life in a way that honors the rhythms God has provided.  I can't wait to get into this further to see what it is God might have for us.
John 15:1–8 (NLT)
Jesus said: “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father..."
Being "connected" and "in step" with God is not only for preachers and church leaders.  Being "in step" is for every one who wants to do good in this world.  Unfortunately, many Christians leave the "spiritual rhythm" thing up to the professionals and pastors who are paid to do it.  That is very sad.  It leaves the body of Christ as a weak extension of the ministry of one or two human beings.  On the other hand, spiritual rhythms are not just for us as individuals--they bring us together with others as members of one body with one head.

As I said, I'm really looking forward to doing more study and prayer.  I'm also looking forward to hearing from others, either on Sunday morning or before, about what spiritual rhythms help you keep in step with God.

Now, it's time to stop writing and get to some other things that need doing.  Plus, Toni and I would like to take the canoe out one last time.

from Prairie Lakes Church

This "Do It Yourself" series is one that we're not doing all by ourselves.  The messages were worked on this spring by the "network" of churches that I participate with.  They've also been "performed" (sad way to say it, but it's true... more about that later...) previously by pastors of at least two other churches.  You can access those messages from the links under the photos at right.

from Community of Hope church
I'm thankful for their work and have gone online to listen to what they preached on these topics.  No, I didn't "copy" what they said, but I have appreciated the clarity and practicality of the messages that these churches have shared.

More planning for Sunday, July 13 can be found at do-it-yourself#4.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

What Happens "at church"

We "went to church" today.

We (that is, some family members and I) "went to church" in a town not far from where my in laws live in the summer.  We "went to church" and sang songs, heard scripture and a sermon, and shared communion.  And, after a few moments of conversation, we left.

The "church service" we went to was all planned out before we arrived.  Though we sang a bit and though we interacted with a few people, I don't believe it would be honest to say we were active participants in what happened "at church" today.  We didn't affect (nor effect) anything.  Nothing would have been different if we wouldn't have been there--except there would have been 4 fewer people there and another small handful of other "church attenders" who would have missed out on our brief conversations. 

I would say, today, "at church," we were passive participants even though I took a few notes during the sermon, greeted a few people, spoke briefly with the "pastor" about his message, and tried to initiate a bit of conversation about the message with family members after church.

Some might call that "active."  I would not.  And I don't believe that's what God would desire to happen when people get together for this precious "once a week" time of being together with a group of people in Jesus' name.  There are hints throughout the New Testament that the Holy Spirit worked actively through a variety of people when the church gathered.  It was not, generally speaking a show that was put on by one or two people or even by a small group. 

As I spoke of this "after church" today, my father in law asked what I would do differently.  I told him that would depend upon the people who get together at any given "church."

One suggestion that someone from Crossroads had come up with was that individuals or families (regularly or occasionally?) could be the planners for particular Sundays.  That could at least have SOME of the church's people be active.  I sent an email to our board of directors a moment ago about that.  Perhaps we'll be able to have some more "active" participation by at least some of our people during the rest of this summer... perhaps as early as two weeks from today.

What would you do to make worship more actively participatory?  Will you pray that God will reveal His plans?  Will you pray with others who are a part of your church about this?  What does God want you to do together during this precious weekly time of gathering?  It's not something that any one person can decide on their own.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Way of Kings

“We follow the codes not because they bring gain, but because we loathe the people we would otherwise become.” in Brandon Sanderson's book The Way of Kings
My son Jon gave me the book The Way of Kings for my May. As with other good fiction, it resonates with truth. I'm only about half way through.

I feel a kinship with Dalinar, whose visions and commitment to the truth ("the codes") make others think he's out of touch with reality (re: the codes "no one ever lives like that"). And I've been inspired and challenged by the man Kaladin (another up to this point in the book an unrelated character) has become.

Both Dalinar and Kaladin face situations where "success" is not "humanly possible" but still they press on (up to this point) with something I will call "faith" because someone outside themselves strengthens them in ways they cannot understand or control. (For Dalinar it's whoever gives the visions and for Kaladin it's the windspren "Syl").

So it is with God's people in this broken world.

By the way -- The quote I put started this with isn't the quote I was thinking about when I woke this morning but it was the quote I could find online quickly that connected with "the codes".  The one I would have liked to share is the one where someone says to Dalinar that "no one lives like that," that is, following "the codes."

So many disciples of Jesus today give in to polite society and "the majority" instead of being willing to walk differently. The "churches" that we "go to" are particularly guilty of that. They do not generally challenge the evils of the status quo in an effective and consistent way.

Thank you to all of you who keep praying. Let's encourage one another so, like Dalinar and Kaladin (so far in the book) we allow ourselves to be re-animated by God.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Apples or Oranges

The following is a "Youth Devotional" from Josh McDowell posted today at

Bible Reading: Romans 14:1-4

Who are you to condemn God’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord’s power will help them do as they should. Romans 14:4

THINK ABOUT THE following questions. How would you answer each one?

• Which of the following is better: Coca-Cola or Pepsi?
• Which color is prettier: blue or green?
• Who’s funnier: Donald Duck or Daffy Duck?
• Which fruit is tastier: an apple or an orange?
• Which is more fun: waterskiing or white-water rafting?
• Who’s a better singer: Mariah Carey or Celine Dion?

So, did you answer all the questions? Which answers are right? The truth is, either answer for each question may be right. Or neither.

How can that be? Well, you may prefer Coke; your friend may like Pepsi better. You may think Donald Duck is hilarious, while your friend gets hysterical just thinking about Daffy Duck. You may like apples, your friend may like oranges. In fact, you may like them both about the same, or you may hate both apples and oranges and go ape over bananas instead!

That’s because Coke vs. Pepsi and Donald and Daffy are matters of taste and opinion. There is no right or wrong answer. It’s up to you. But that doesn’t mean everything is like that. If the question had been, “Which of the following is a Disney character: Donald Duck or Daffy Duck?” the answer would not be up to you. There is a right answer-Donald is a Disney character; Daffy is a Warner Brothers/Looney Tunes creation. If the question was, “Which of the following is a primary color: blue or green?” the answer would not be a matter of taste. After all, blue is a primary color. Green is a secondary color created by mixing blue and yellow.

Of course, a lot of people get confused and think that right and wrong are just like apples and oranges. “You think it’s wrong to do this,” they may say, “but I have a different opinion.” But God clearly tells us in his Word what things are right (like attending church regularly-see Hebrews 10:25). He also leaves some decisions up to us (like which church we choose to attend). The important thing is not to confuse the two; if God has said something is wrong, we should not say otherwise.

REFLECT: Do you ever act like the standards of right and wrong are up to you to decide? Why or why not?

ACT: Eat an apple or orange as a snack or with your lunch today to remind you not to confuse matters of taste with matters of truth.

PRAY: “God, help me to choose your standards as my standards so that I can maintain a clear conscience before you and everyone else.”