Friday, March 27, 2015

God's Word -- and God's Love -- on the Cross

I'm continuing to study the question "Why Did Jesus Die?" I'm doing this as I prepare for Palm Sunday, the day Jesus entered Jerusalem on the way to the cross.

It's clear Jesus did not die by mistake. No, it's clear, from scripture, that Jesus came in order to lay down his life for us. That was God's plan.

But that doesn't answer the question "Why did Jesus die?" The mere fact that he purposefully walked and rode into the headquarters of his enemies doesn't answer the "why" question at all. I'm asking about the strategy. What was it about the spiritual situation of the world that required Jesus to give up his life, and how did Jesus' suffering and death (and subsequent resurrection) provide a remedy?

It seems to me that the Word of God gives at least two ways of looking at the how God works LOVE through the Cross. Scholars say there are more, but I think there are basically two.

I'll try to say some things about what I understand about each, but I know this will not be complete or even very well written. I think I've spent a hundred or more hours studying this over the last couple weeks and I'm just needing to get some things written down that will be hopefully helpful for me (in terms of organizing thoughts) and perhaps for others too. Not having to drive bus this week has let me get some of this done.

1. Some portions of scripture (as I read them) seem to look upon Jesus' death as an answer to the question: "How can God mercifully pardon sinners who have caused untold suffering to themselves and others without God also becoming an accomplice to their evil and without disregarding the cries of those who have suffered?"
That's the way I would ask the question. The Psalms, for example give voice to those who suffer--and they cry out for justice! And the prophets do the same.

But that's not the way most Christians would answer the "How can God..." question.
  They would ask "How can a Holy God excuse sin and evil?" highlighting a legal requirement for justice, saying God cannot save sinners without punishment. So, they would say, in an act of mercy, God the Father pours out His wrath on Jesus, satisfying that legal requirement. There are scripture passages that say almost exactly that--for example, Romans 3:25.

What do I think? Leaving aside, for a moment, the impersonal justice issue, I can see how God pouring wrath upon sin and evil, Jesus having taken it all on himself, can picture the Gospel truthfully. What sweetness in knowing that Jesus died for me, that he took upon himself the consequences of the sin and evil I have done, including the sin and evil I have participated in and benefited from without intent... i.e. Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. It's a horribly painful, though good, word from God. God shows love as, in Christ Jesus, he suffers and dies for us, in the place of sinners and all who have done evil or failed to do what is good.

It seems to me, however, that this idea of "substitutionary atonement" can imply a separation of God the Father from God the Son. It can make God the Father seem to be an enemy of God the Son, and an enemy of anyone who sins. That's a problem because Jesus states, for example, in the Gospel of John, that he and the Father are one. And it's a problem because God wants us to "flee for refuge to Him" instead of running away.

I'm thankful for scripture passages that make it clear that "GOD IS LOVE" and that there is and never has been any division or separation between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I should look them up and add them here... maybe I'll do that later.

The words believers focus on when they think of God and Jesus being separate are the ones Jesus says on the Cross, "My God... why have you forsaken me." I think Jesus felt abandoned on the cross but I'm pretty much convinced that the Father never left him.

The words Jesus spoke about being forsaken on the cross are actually quoted from Psalm 22 verse 1, and a later verse in that Psalm declares that "he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him."

This interpretation leads to the second understanding of the atonement that I'll speak about below.

I can't reject this idea of Jesus' death being a sacrifice for us entirely, however, like others seem to do, because the scriptural evidence for it just seems to be so strong. And I don't think that the sacrificial language was only a way of "speaking in a way that religious humans can understand." There is real evil to be dealt with and the Cross somehow deals with it in a decisive way.

I'm drawn to some passages that I can't completely understand, where the Bible speaks of Jesus' blood has been shed and that our salvation (and a remedy for evil) has been provided for, not only on the Cross itself, which brought it out into the open, but in eternity past, before there was anything--before the creation of space and time and everything else, that is, "before the foundation of the world". See, for example, First Peter 1:19-20 and Revelation 13:8.  It's all been prepared and the Cross just brings it out.

I have a lot more to learn and study about this.
2. Though I don't think the Cross is ALL about God's reputation, but some Christians have come to that conclusion. They would say that the real problem is seen, for example, in the Garden of Eden where Satan lies to the woman about God. Then the woman and man disobey by eating the fruit from "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (instead of the knowledge of God!). Then the man and woman both hide from God even though God is seeking them.

The question that the Cross answers in this case is, "How can God convince people that He is really for them and with them and not against them?" The answer is: In the Cross God demonstrates that there is NOTHING he would not do to gain their love, and he is willing to suffer the wrath and abandonment of every human being present in order to gain their trust. It's all about love. The only wrath is the wrath of the people--and of Satan--who pour out their venom on Jesus as they afflict him with injustice and cruelty and death.
In the passage from Genesis 3, where the man and woman are hiding from God, there's no reason to think God is hunting the couple to punish them after they sinned... no reason, that is except that the man and woman go and hide! There's no reason to think that God would not have forgiven them if they had confessed instead of blaming one another (and the snake). But because they believe God is now someone who should be avoided they become untrustworthy partners with God. So God decrees that they shall die--but that death was never to be permanent. God has had a plan, since before creation, to win the people's trust--and that's what happens when Jesus comes as he had already planned, and ends up suffering all the way to the death.

This view says that the real problem that Jesus' death solves is about God's reputation, about how to get people to go to him instead of running away. It is really important that we know God rightly, so we go to him and not away, that we don't avoid Him or His Word, because he is the only source of true life and love! The Bible has many examples of people who invent other "gods," that is, other ways of coping or living, ways that reject God's purposes for us here on earth. And all of them lead nowhere but into more evil, more suffering, and, eventually, to a very dead end.
So--what should we say about the Cross? How does God work love through it?

It seems to me that God the Son puts himself forward on the Cross to suffer the worst injustice and cruelty sinners could dish out, dying and then rising from the dead (!) so that all the world's oppressed can know where to find hope and help when all is lost. They can go to God and hope in Him! They never need to be afraid of his wrath or punishment! It's ALL about love!

That preaches! That's a message that truly speaks with the voice of Jesus, a voice that we need to make sure is speaking loud and clear. From what I read in scripture Jesus is much less concerned about a need to "fulfill a legalistic requirement" than just sharing LOVE! In the Holy Spirit, I believe God is at work in us to preach the Cross in a way that draws every sinful and broken human being to himself.

I should clean this up and look for other examples from scripture before I publish this blog post, but I really need to stop working on this. I'm thankful for the opportunity to serve as the pastor of a church where people really care about truth, and look forward to bringing some of this out on Sunday at Crossroads.

God's peace to you all in Jesus' name.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Another Week of God's Grace

It's a beautiful morning here in Cokato. I finished my snow shoveling workout and, since I don't need to drive my regular morning and afternoon school bus routes this week, I can spend more time doing other things.

We had a great weekend, both as a church family and as a personal family.
  • On Saturday we very much enjoyed time at the Franklin Avenue Mission. A reporter from our local newspaper was there so perhaps there will be something printed about that next Monday.
  • Then yesterday we launched the "JESUS" series of messages in the morning and then in the evening, after a visit to our son Jon (and Breanna and granddaughter Lydia) we worshiped at Igreja Brasileira da Esperança in Bloomington. Toni's nephews serve there -- one as worship director and one as translator. I really enjoyed the chance to listen to a message in Portuguese and to speak with those who braved the snow to be out yesterday evening.
  • After dark last night we drove back to Cokato. The snow was coming down and the roads were greasy. We did get home safely, but one block from our home I put on the brakes for a stop sign and slid into the path of an oncoming car, that, praise the Lord, was still stopped at the intersection. 
Toni and I are praising God for His grace -- and I am reminded again how foolish it is to have any pride in our my strength or abilities -- including in my driving ability. All we have and all we are and all we can do are just signs of God's great love. But we can absolutely trust in Him!

Two main things on my "to do" list for the week:
  1. Looking ahead to next Sunday -- I'll do a message on Why Did Jesus Die? This will fit in with celebrating Jesus' entry into Jerusalem ("Palm Sunday"). I had been scheduled to preach on one of the "Seven Last Words" of Christ as he spoke them on the Cross. I've been growing in my understanding of Jesus' work and that will fit in nicely with next Sunday's message.
  2. Looking ahead to Crossroads' future and my own future -- As I explained on this blog on March 13, I will be taking a substantial pay cut beginning next month. I have offered to take on some more school bus driving work (activity trips etc.) but I've been looking beyond that. This "spring break" time will give me the chance to search and pray and perhaps make a decision. As for Crossroads future, I'm hoping to meet this week with others for prayer and consultation as to our mission in this community, particularly in connection with something I've called "DC Help."
I ask your prayers and any suggestions you have would be welcome. In the meantime I'm excited about the mission work God gives us to do here. I praise God for each day and each opportunity that He gives. He has me, and you, firmly in His hand. Let me know how I, and Crossroads, can be of service to you.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Note added March 23 - more HERE about the "Jesus" series of messages mentioned below, including a link to a recording of what we shared yesterday at Crossroads.

Good afternoon! I'm writing this from the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers building in northeast Minneapolis. I drove school bus to the Guthrie for a high school "introduction to theater" class and found parking here. I'm sitting in their lobby doing a bit of work.

I thought I should take time to jot some thoughts and prayers about what the Lord has been leading me to do some preaching on this coming Sunday and in the next few weeks after that. We're coming close to the time of the year when Jesus gave his life for us and rose from the dead -- so it makes sense to me that we should refocus on some of the basics of the faith, specifically, some of the basics about JESUS.

That's my working title for the upcoming series, simply "JESUS." But what wonders we have from God in Him!

A few weeks ago my son Daniel connected me with some teachings on that are helpful in understanding just who JESUS is--teachings from C. Baxter Kruger. He  I'll need to find time to review some of this before I'm ready to preach this coming Sunday.

Many times in a series of hour plus long messages simply entitled "In" (see that first video below) he says this:
The Gospel is not the news that you can receive Jesus into your life. The Gospel is that the Father's Son has come, and He has received us into His life.
Now that little sentence may need some unpacking in order to understand it... we could rephrase it like this:
The good news that Christians have for you is that JESUS came and did everything necessary to bring you and me and every other human being into a perfectly sweet relationship with the God of All.
How could JESUS do that? After all, wasn't Jesus a human being, known here on earth as "Jesus of Nazareth" or "Jesus, son of Mary and Joseph"? Yes, he is a human being (still, even today, no less than he was when he was here on earth 2,000 years ago). And yes, Jesus was known as one "of Nazareth," that is, the name of the town he grew up in and he was known as the "son of Mary and Joseph." That is how he was known when He was here on earth 2,000 years ago. But Jesus is so much more than that.

We'll begin, this coming Sunday with scripture from John's Gospel chapter 1 and then go on to other scriptures such as Hebrews chapter 1 and Colossians chapter 1. We will learn, or be reminded, that JESUS wasn't just born of the virgin Mary, but that HE, our wonderful Lord and Savior, was in the beginning--that everything in creation was made by HIM--and that JESUS is the one that holds everything together. EVERYTHING... including everything that does not yet know his name.

JESUS is able to do that because He, with "Father" and "Holy Spirit" IS the God of All. He IS the God of ALL--not only of those who happen to know his name. What we have is good news of truth to proclaim so that people can know the JOY of what's going on in this beautiful but broken world.

That's all I'll write for now. More on Sunday at Crossroads -- and in the video below.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Most Dangerous Choice

I started writing this at 8:10 on Saturday evening. At that time I wrote:

I'm scheduled to preach in the morning. I don't know just what I'm going to say even though I've been working on this message off and on since mid afternoon, and though I've been praying about it all week. So I guess I'll do what I have often done in the past few years when I seem to be stuck -- I'll write to you... to the one or two people who might see this blog post tonight. I wonder how long it will take to get this done?

Now I'm about ready to post this... it's 8:15 Sunday morning. Please pray that the Lord would bless His Word as it is preached today.
Added 5:00 PM - you can access the recording and visuals here

We've been blessed at Crossroads as God has led us into a series of messages focused around the ten chapters of Graeme Sellers' book The Dangerous Kind.  Now we're onto message #10 -- a message I've titled "The Choice of the Dangerous Kind." Graeme calls it "This Is Your Life."

Before the message we'll be reading Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (and some surrounding verses) and Matthew 7:13-15. The first of those passages includes the famous words "choose life" and the second, equally famous, says this:
"Go in by the narrow gate. For the wide gate has a broad road which leads to disaster and there are many people going that way. The narrow gate and the hard road lead out into life and only a few are finding it."
Those are Jesus words. Words that Jesus speaks, not to everyone in general, and certainly not to those who don't yet know who Jesus is...

Actually, those are Jesus' words to those who had already made some sort of decision, whether well thought out or not, to follow him. Jesus' audience has already tasted his goodness and love and they had already decided they wanted more.

How do we know that? 

Go to Matthew 4:23...
"... He [Jesus] went throughout all Galilee, teaching... and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.

"So his fame spread... and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him...

"Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them..." (Mt 4:23-5:2)
And at that point Jesus begins the long speech we call "The Sermon on the Mount"; and the "narrow gate" passage is part of it.

Here's what I see: The choice of the narrow gate with the hard road, or the wide gate with the easy road is given to people who have already had a positive experience with the Lord. People like that have, by then, already made a decision, of one sort or another, to follow Him, at least in the sense of wanting to know or hear more about Jesus. The message about choice isn't given to those who only have heard about him but who haven't had personal experience with him. The choice isn't given to those who have only just heard the testimony of other people or mere teaching about our Lord.

It's not about a first decision to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. It's about the continual decision to live as if Jesus really were Lord.

The same is true of the "Choose Life" passage of Deuteronomy 30. The people of Israel were already chosen by God and they were already a part of His family. They had already benefited from the saving power of God, leading them out of slavery in Egypt, bringing them safe through the wilderness of their rebellion. By this point God had already treated the people of Israel as his own. And yet, they were given a choice. Don't be distracted! Stay with me!

The choice wasn't to be or not to be one of God's children, but, instead, like in Matthew 7, the choice is for those who are already God's people to decide to follow in his ways, to act and to bring blessing to the world--to be, in their daily lives, the people God had already chosen them to be.

Grace always comes first, and then the choice is irresistible... like in "choose this day who you will serve" in Joshua or "will you also go away" in John 6:68. We say "Where else will we go? You are life and love and truth! You're the best, Jesus! We will love because you loved us first."

The fact is this: God always loves first. He always chooses first. He chooses. He pursues. And when we come to know Jesus, when we learn about him, we know God does loves and chooses every one of his human creatures. Even those who are the most far away.

So then, "the choice" of life or not life, the choice of following Jesus on the narrow path or following the world on the easy wide road... that choice is given only to those who already been chosen by God and who have been filled with his grace and love, to those who know they belong to him.

The choice is whether we will live in a way that honors Him and His choice for us. Whether we will follow him in pursuing the lost.

God's choice, his most dangerous choice, was to accept you and me into His family! What a risk! Therefore the only choice we have is whether or not we will copy his way of choosing.
  • The choice is whether we, like Jesus, will leave the 99 who are safe and go in pursuit of the one who is lost.
  • The choice is whether we, like Jesus, will passionately dare to pray and then, upon God's command, enter the dark places to bring light and life and hope.
Why do we need to make that choice? Why don't we just automatically become God's warriors as soon as we come to know Jesus' love?

There is an enemy who will get us off track. There is an enemy who comes to distract and dissuade... that is, to take us away from God's purpose... to make us something less than soldiers of God in this world.

At the beginning of this series of messages we put this picture up on the screen.

Is this how you think of your daily life? That you, a son or daughter of God, would be one of those who is sent into this world to rescue and reclaim those who are caught in darkness? The devil does not want you to think of yourself like that.

Here are Graeme Sellers words:
"The father of lies urges us to settle for nominal Christianity, for an unobtrusive, inoffensive fondness for Jesus that sentimentalizes him and minimizes the kingdom reign he ushers in."
It's true. Satan comes up to us every day and whispers to us that we're really not very important. The devil tells us that the best we can do is to receive God's grace, that we will never be strong enough, not even with God by our side... that we will never be strong enough to really do anything significant for God

He'll tells us that "mission" is something we do in other places and that our every day life right here can never be as exciting or important to the Kingdom of God as what missionaries do, or what we do when we travel to another place. He'll tell us that only big churches and large crowds and flashy presentations are true signs of God's presence.

He'll tell us that you and I, in a little church in Dassel-Cokato can certainly not be important to Him.

And then the devil will tell us to
"... make ourselves comfortable...
He'll convince us of things like imitating Christ's supernatural ministry is "mythology for half-wits" and

"... that since we will always have the poor with us, then it is senseless to attempt to do anything about poverty.
These are quotes, more or less, from Graeme Sellers' book.

The devil tells us
"... we ought to grasp for promotion and greatness...

"...that we are free to pick and choose the words of God we like and discard the ones we deem personally irrelevant or culturally insensitive."
I believe this is true from the Word of God:
"Satan makes a play for our heart.

[Satan tells us that] "love must be doled out in careful measure to those meriting it but never to those who do not. How awful it would be, he tells us, to love someone who engages in practices and promotes viewpoints we do not, and in so doing inadvertently endorse them and their flawed, sinful ways. Keep love in reserve and guard your heart, the thief of hearts counsels us; it is much smarter and safer that way. Not loving unconditionally – that's really better for everyone concerned."
Satan makes a play for our heart. He makes a play for the heart of believers. He tempts us to live for ourselves, to abandon the mission God has given us.

And then, worst of all,
"He [the evil One] will shame us and scold us and scare us, insisting that our bad behavior condemns us... and that our failings are the final word on our lives.

" 'You had your chance,' [the devil will] tell us when God makes us an offer to become the dangerous kind and we refuse it, 'You blew it. And that's all there is to say-you're done
for.' "
"You're done. You're out. You're disqualified.You may as well give up now."

Those are the worst words that can be thrown at us.

But those are never words of God.

Jesus, who most clearly represents the heart of God came, not to condemn us, but to save us. And when our hearts condemn us, when Satan's scheme succeeds and our hearts fall into his hands, God is greater than our hearts!

God continue to choose us, even when we fail to choose him... he is stubborn and frustratingly persistent. He can take no for an answer, and he grieves when we refuse the call... but as long as we live he continues to pursue.

Here's a final quote from Graeme's The Dangerous Kind
This is truth that blows prison doors right off their hinges. Whenever our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts. Whenever our sin accuses us, God is greater than our sin. When it comes to being the dangerous kind, even though we keep refusing, God keeps offering. Why? Can't he take a hint? Can't he take no for an answer? Well, yes, he can, but he'd really rather not. He knows us better than we could ever hope to know ourselves. Our sin and stubbornness never surprise him and they do not deter him. He knows what we can be if only we will say yes to him.
He knows what we can be if only we say yes to Him.

We, like Jesus, can become the Dangerous Kind. Right here. Right now. In Dassel-Cokato, pursuing the lost, piercing the darkness with His love.

God already made the most dangerous choice, choosing you and me to belong to him while we were still the worst sinners in the world.

He only calls us to follow him, to choose as he has, and not to shrink back.

Let's pray...


Okay, that's all the prep I have time for. I still need to rearrange the slides and make a few more. Visuals are helpful... and then I'll run and pick up a man from the Cokato Apartments.

Hope to see you today... or on a future Sunday... at Crossroads... the most dangerous little church I know. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Crossroads Mission Center

What follows is a sort of update to a piece I wrote back in December - a piece I entitled Moving Ahead into 2015, summarizing some recent developments at Crossroads Community Church. THANK YOU to all who have supported, and continued to support, the work we do together in Jesus' name.

It's another beautiful morning--a little after 8 at the moment. There is no elementary school in the Dassel-Cokato district today so my school bus run was shorter than usual. It'll be mostly sunny today with temps in the 40s and 50s. So much for the weather report. :)

I thought I should report, as I take a few minutes to write today, that I offered, and the Crossroads board accepted, to reduce the amount that Crossroads pays me for my work. The reduction will take effect at the beginning of April and will continue at least through June. It's the only prudent way forward since Crossroads' income isn't keeping up with expenses.

The reason for this is that quite a few families have moved on from Crossroads. (See this post from the fall: What It Means to Trust God.) Other families and individuals have come on board with joy and thankfulness for the Lord's work in our midst, so I'm not discouraged personally! In fact, I'm more energized and positive about our work together with the Lord in this place than I have ever been.

Crossroads is not, at least not anymore, a little church that resulted from people leaving one to found another. Crossroads is becoming a mission center and God is blessing us every day with energy and the joy of the Lord. We've been highlighting some of the mission outreaches in our bulletin each week -- there are more to go. Next week, for example, we might highlight the work the Lord is doing through Gintarė Varankevičiūtė in New York City... or perhaps the introduction to the "Elijah House" prayer ministry that we're sharing on a few Saturdays this spring. Stay tuned or explore our imperfect website at

Here are a few pictures from our mission highlights that we've featured in bulletins since the beginning of January -- on our website you'll find links to all these and more.

I include these as an encouragement to all who have been part of Crossroads Community Church Cokato over the years, and those who are now joyfully participating in the mission God has given us. I also include these to show how we are indeed being "THE DANGEROUS KIND," more than just one more little church in the community. God is doing great things through us and it is privilege to serve with all who have been a part of this church.

Praise God for all his love - love we get to share in Jesus' name.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

God's Practical Call

I'm continuing my foray into the community, tracking down the resources available to those who are in need. I've started to list the resources at

Today I visited five "low-income housing" apartment buildings. What that means is that people apply to live there as a part of some sort of government rent-subsidy program.

Lots of working, handicapped, disabled and retired people depend on government help. There is no shame in that. But what is a shame is when Christ's church people tend to leave it to the government to care and reach out to those in need.

My prayer is that we will dare to step in to share practical help and Christ's love with people no matter what their circumstances. I believe this is a part of the call to "choose life" that we're introduced to by Moses:
"Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the Lord, you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." (Deuteronomy 30: 19-20 NLT)
Graeme Sellers picks up this theme in the last chapter of his book The Dangerous Kind. The chapter title is "This Is the Key to Your Life." Through Graeme, God calls us to do more than "build churches," whether church buildings, institutions or close church "families." God calls us to plunge into the darkness of need and complicated lives, bringing the good news and bringing LOVE. That's what it means to be the DANGEROUS KIND.

Graeme says:
Does becoming the dangerous kind matter?

As Moses told Israel when laying out the blessings of obedience and the curses of disobedience, this is the key to your life.

It is an invitation to live far beyond the tempered aspirations of institutionalized religious life, where the highest and best we can hope for are modifications in our behavior, membership in a local church, and a memorialized connection to Jesus in which we remember who he was and what he did for us two millennia ago.

The Father's offer catapults us into the ongoing, unfolding ministry of Jesus and the fulfillment of his promise that we will do even greater things than he did; it obliterates niceness as a Christian value and establishes reckless, perilous following of Jesus as an assumed non-negotiable.

Responding to the Father's offer transports us from low impact Christianity to high octane kingdom living. (from p.160 of The Dangerous Kind by Graeme Sellers)
I'd write more but it's time to meet with our youth! Let's do God's "dangerous" work, piercing every darkness with Jesus' love.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Tonight in St. Cloud - Success for Youth & Young Adults

I received the email below yesterday and plan to attend this event tonight. Would anyone want to go along? We have already been blessed through Tentmaker's "Leadership Quest," it will be interesting to learn more about this new initiative.

Tentmakers is a training organization that delivers practical, Christ-centered, leadership and life skills training. For more about it go to

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Tentmakers Training Opportunity in St. Cloud, MN
From: Victoria LaBau
Date: Mon, March 09, 2015 11:25 am

You are invited to attend a “CHANGE! Workshop” and participate in a facilitated discussion exploring new training opportunities to develop young men and women (high school and college age) with vision, courage, character and faith in Jesus Christ who will have the imagination, moral fiber and tenacity to serve and succeed in all walks of life---business, industry, education, media, the Arts, government and the Church.

CHANGE! is a weekly training experience, over 32-weeks, for young men and women who work with adult mentors and coaches to sharpen their skills and understanding in twelve foundational areas and prepare them to be Christcentered leaders ready to change the world!

 WHEN: Tues., March 10, 2015 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. WHERE: Hampton Inn & Suites 145 - 37th Avenue St. Cloud, MN

​ Except for a valuable investment of your time, the CHANGE! workshop is free, fully sponsored and hosted by Tentmakers, a Christ-centered leadership training and coaching organization celebrating 35 years of raising up young leaders in the name of Jesus Christ with a legacy of changed lives, changing lives.

​If you have any questions, feel free to give Clint Elliot, Young Daniel/Change Program Director or myself a call or email.

Clint #502-931-2251
Victoria #763-354-4167

Blessings, Victoria​

Victoria LaBau
Tentmakers - Equipping Christ-centered Leaders for over 30 Years!
Phone: 218.848.2323
Cell: 763.354.4167
           Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."


Monday, March 9, 2015

The Choice of the Dangerous Kind

"Do you not know that being the world's friend is being God's enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world takes his stand as an enemy of God" (James 4:4b AMP).
     "The choice before the dangerous kind is explicit: the narrow way of the kingdom versus the sixteen-lane superhighway of the world, a superior but inestimably more hazardous life versus an inferior but less personally demanding life. The narrow way is the way of Jesus' own ministry, doing what he did in radical dependence on the Holy Spirit and stirring up all manner of spiritual reprisals as a result. The narrow way is the commitment to remember the poor and to incarnate the kindness of heaven's king to the forgotten ones of our society. The narrow path disdains the spotlight and embraces being hidden in Christ's life. It places itself under the Word, not over it, and submits quickly to its demands, constraints, and requirements. The narrow way is the heart-healing road of repentance, reckless obedience, and love as the absolute gold standard of kingdom life. The narrow way is the only road open to the dangerous kind, who have been made this offer by their Father: you can have life to the full, 'til it overflows. Or you can have the pseudo life of nominal Christianity in which the world will ever serve you tea as you spend your days in pursuits that never fully engage you.
     "The choice is real and it is before each person who names Jesus of Nazareth as Lord. This One whom we claim as our own makes this claim upon us (Matthew 7:13-14 PHILLIPS): 'Go in by the narrow gate. For the wide gate has a broad road which leads to disaster and there are many people going that way. The narrow gate and the hard road lead out into life and only a few are finding it.' Making the right choice, the dangerous choice, is everything."

(from The Dangerous Kind by Graeme Sellers, pages 150-151)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

God Sense ≠ Common Sense

Here are the notes I wrote for preaching today. I just copied and pasted from a word document without editing. (If I find some time I'll look it over later and maybe add some of the slides.)

You can listen to a recording of today's worship gathering at [THIS LINK]. but be warned that the recording didn't come through very well today.

The message is connected with The Dangerous Kind series that we're doing, using the chapter of Graeme Sellers' book as our series outline. The title of this chapter in the book is "RECKLESS."

God's peace to you in Jesus' name.

March 8, 2015
Praise and Worship
(beginning early at 10:00)
Church Family Time
(Prayer • Scripture • Sharing)
Offering & Praise
Judges 7:1-8; Hebrews 11:29—12:2
God Sense Common Sense
(Scripture • Prayer • Message • Conversation)
Prayer, Song
Judges 7:1–8
So Jerub-baal (that is, Gideon) and his army got up early and went as far as the spring of Harod. The armies of Midian were camped north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength. Therefore, tell the people, ‘Whoever is timid or afraid may leave this mountain and go home.’ ” So 22,000 of them went home, leaving only 10,000 who were willing to fight.
But the Lord told Gideon, “There are still too many! Bring them down to the spring, and I will test them to determine who will go with you and who will not.” When Gideon took his warriors down to the water, the Lord told him, “Divide the men into two groups. In one group put all those who cup water in their hands and lap it up with their tongues like dogs. In the other group put all those who kneel down and drink with their mouths in the stream.” Only 300 of the men drank from their hands. All the others got down on their knees and drank with their mouths in the stream.
The Lord told Gideon, “With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home.” So Gideon collected the provisions and rams’ horns of the other warriors and sent them home. But he kept the 300 men with him.
The Midianite camp was in the valley just below Gideon.

Hebrews 11:29–12:2
29 It was by faith that the people of Israel went right through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground. But when the Egyptians tried to follow, they were all drowned.
30 It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down.
31 It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.
32 How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35 Women received their loved ones back again from death.
But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.
39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.
12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated on the right hand of the throne of God. 

[title slide]
[pause] – [put up Heb. 12:1b-2 slide, then begin…]
Jesus endured the cross. [pause] [add highlighting]
We’re coming up on that season of the year when Jesus died for us. It was in the spring of the year when Jesus died… long about March or April in the Middles East when lambs are born.
God’s people were celebrating Passover at the time…
At the Passover it was a lamb that bled and died.
But at the cross it was the pure and innocent beloved Son.
[slide with the cross and “endured the cross”]
Jesus endured for us. The suffering. The pain.
And he endured the feeling that he was rejected… The feeling we know when we say My God, my God, why have you rejected me…
But the truth is that neither Jesus nor any of us are rejected…  [fade in Ps 22:24]
“… He has not despised nor rejected the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from Him; But when He cried to Him, He heard.”
On the cross Jesus felt like we do when we think all hope is gone. Yes… he went through torture and physical pain. He felt rejected.
Jesus endured the cross. And then, praise God, he rose again. [fade out Ps 22:24]
But there is something else in this verse—in Hebrews 12:2 that we sometimes don’t focus on…
And those are the next words: Let’s read together the verses on the screen together [add whole verse]:
… Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated on the right hand of the throne of God.
He endured the cross…disregarding its shame.
The word “disregard” means to think nothing of it…
And “shame” [RED] … there was the idea back then that if you were hanged… if God let you die like Jesus did – you were cursed! (Deuteronomy 21:23, Galatians 3:13)
You get a little sense of this as you remember how the men who hanged Jesus made fun of him… “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself.”
That’s the SHAME of the cross … and Jesus recklessly disregarded it. He looked it in the face and laughed.
God Sense    Common Sense
“No one takes my life from me,” he said, “I give it up.” (John 10:8)
Jesus went to the cross on purpose… to pierce the darkness with His love. He did it to save US…
Not just “us…,” as in us who are here but all of us…
He went to the cross not only for people who are ready to believe in him and trust him, but to save the ones who put him to death… to save the ones who have little or no chance of being changed.
For God so loved the world… and especially us human beings who are such a POOR investment.
Back in the beginning… God turns the creation over to us and we turn it over to the devil in like two days.
And then he decides to save us and we reject him. We throw him to the wolves.
God Sense    Common Sense
And  ever since then… we “Christians” have confused being “religious” with doing the life-saving work of God.
Why would we follow him in reckless love?
Such a bad investment. Better to build a church building or a bank account. Anything else makes no sense.
But here’s the thing:
·         God will leave the 99 to go after the 1. We build institutional churches and make ourselves comfortable.
·         God the Father stands waiting for the wasted child to come home. We grumble when too much effort is expended on people who aren’t a part of our group.
·         Jesus invests his life teaching men and women who had no hope of really amounting to anything or even understanding what he was teaching them… you know the list of his followers… We think it’s wise to spend our resources keeping our own people happy.
We’re calculating. We’re cautious. Our favorite parable is the one about “counting the cost”… Luke 14:28… We think it’s about making sure we’ve got enough money… or the one in Luke 14:31 that we think is about being strong… When what it’s really about is Luke 14:33 giving up EVERYTHING we have and not relying on our finances or strength at all.
God Sense    Common Sense
It makes no sense for God to invest himself in
us. Even after the Holy Spirit comes and fills
us we leak and have to keep being filled,
over and over again… Ephesians 5:18 is written to Christians!
The first disciples understood something about completely relying on God once the Holy Spirit came… but soon enough the people fell to arguing and bickering all over again. Read it in Acts.
And God sent correction… God inspired letter writers and preachers… but God’s people still fell out into groups and misunderstandings.
Honestly, the investment of God in us… it makes as little sense as giving a $20 bill to a drunk.
Honestly, if you read through the scriptures and notice the kinds of people God invests in, you’ll see that the comparison isn’t that far off.
But still, that’s what he does. He invests. Not just by handing out money… that’s too easy… that’s sometimes a way to get RID of people… including drunks…
He invests his LIFE
And he says to us—through His Word and through His Spirit—He says to us—as the Father has sent me, so I send you.
He calls us to invest our time, and our lives, not on those who are already doing okay… not on those who are strong in faith and who are understanding and obeying…
He calls us to invest in the LOST ONES.
[pause] There is so little chance of success in that.
It doesn’t make sense to keep on going after the lost. Or to keep on investing in God’s people the church. It makes no sense at all.
Except to our absolutely loving God.
Our God… he keeps plunging into the darkness in order to rescue those who were trapped in darkness. And he keeps failed disciples on his team. Restoring them over and over again.
Here’s the cross. The cross is a sign of recklessness.
It’s not a sign of abandonment. [Fade in Ps 22:24]
It’s a sign of hanging in there no matter what.
Will we follow that sign? Will we do as Jesus did? [out]
Will we come alongside those who are suffering? Will we be with those who feel rejected? Will we advance into the darkness? That is the command and blessing of God.
Love your neighbor as yourself. Don’t worry about your own life or your own well-being. Invest in OTHERS… not in yourself.
We think that’s crazy. Truth is, we Christians value caution more than we value obedience to God.
Instead of just doing what God says, instead of just doing what Jesus did, we explain away radical and life-giving ways God would call us to have as our normal life style. We take the Sermon on the Mount and ignore the parts that seem to crazy. And we say that the example of the Christian community in Acts—we say it was a fluke. We say “There’s no way we can live like that.” Better to build an institution. Better to build a building.
Caution has become our god. We bow to it. It’s our idol.
I have to say the same thing of myself. So often I check to see if I have the funds or the strength… I make sure I have a reserve… and a contract… a comfortable life.
There’s no way I would ever understand Judges 7 in real life… or, perish the thought, actually believe it… that when we are weak… then we are strong…
When we have no strength of our own to rely on, then God moves. God sometimes, in his mercy, he’ll pare us down like he did with Gideon’s army… he’s always concerned that we not think we have any strength on our own. He always is calling us to depend on him.
But when I push worldly wisdom aside… when I ignore hundreds years of cautious “common sense” teaching, when I abandon our own strength and trust God completely, when we trust God’s sense instead of common sense… then the Holy Spirit moves in me and among us with supernatural power and love.  Then I follow Jesus in all of life, doing things His way… that pierces the darkness and makes us dangerous in the hand of God—that builds God’s kingdom in His truth… in His way.
Will we respond? In ALL our decisions? Will we look to the CROSS? Will we give in to God’s sense, surrendering common sense? Let’s surrender to Jesus. Let’s do it now.

God Sense    Common Sense

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A Physical Game

At 9:00 Toni and I got back from the girl's basketball game here in Cokato. The DC team won. They're moving on to the section semi-finals on Saturday in St. Peter. Two of our starters are now hurt -- one captain tore her ACL at the last regular season game and today another broke her arm.

As we were coming back Toni remarked on how physical basketball has become. It's certainly a contact sport. At one point I compared it to rugby. There were many tussles for the ball and some ended up with girls on the floor. I'm glad there weren't more injuries.

The chapter we're reading from Graeme Sellers' book this week is "Reckless." The chapter begins with the negative side of recklessness, the ways that reckless people "consistently cause trouble and find themselves deep in it." Reckless people, writes Graeme, put other people at risk, "courting catastrophe at every turn, failing to value anyone's desires other than their own," without, it seems, "the slightest concern for anyone in their way."

I would not, in any way, call the basketball teams we saw tonight "reckless." The girls were well coached and cared for. But winning does require aggressive play, and watching the game tonight I could understand a bit of the other side of "recklessness" that Graeme speaks of.

There are times when a dash down the court with a shoulder lowered to intimidate the opposition is just what is called for. And, at times, it certainly seems reckless--at least to those who are on the sidelines of the game looking on.

There are times when such "reckless" disregard for the consequences are just what is called for. On the top of page 126, Graeme writes this:
Reckless. It's a stupid, selfish, sinful way to live.
There are some exceptions to the rule. There are instances when recklessness--a wild, calculated risk-taking indifferent to public opinion--is precisely what is called for. In the kingdom adventure Jesus invites his friends to embrace, reckless obedience to all that he commands makes them conspicuously dangerous to their adversary.
The adversary is the devil, the enemy of everything good. And sometimes, as we deal with him, the tactics employed will seem reckless. Read the last part of Hebrews 11. God's people are sometimes called to aggressive obedience that causes trouble -- especially for themselves. We'll say more about this on Sunday, March 8 at Crossroads.

As God's people are called to stand out from the crowd and push for victory, caution and safety cannot always be our main concern. There are times when God calls us out into spiritual conflict where we may be injured. There are times when God calls us to reach out in ways that may cause us to suffer. We may die as we serve our Lord. But that will not be a defeat. As we bring light and love into the darkest places we follow the One who died and rose from the dead.

Some might call Jesus "The Most Reckless." Caution and common sense were not his main plan. And he calls us to follow. To live like him. To do as He did. No matter what the cost may be.

After describing the fate of some of God's Reckless ones, the author of Hebrews says this at the beginning of chapter 12.
"Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne."
Most of us could use a little more recklessness when it comes to acting out our faith. Maybe that's why a good aggressive game of basketball may just be good training for the work of God in this world. It will at least teach you to push hard to share the victory Jesus won for us all.