Weekly Devotion
 
 
 
 
 
 

Community – Spiritual Gifts

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” – 1 Corinthians 12:12-13‬
 
 
I don’t know about you but I like gifts and presents. I get something I want or need and I don’t have to spend any money. From some people you get a generic gift card and it is still nice to receive. But my my favorite gifts come from my wife. She knows me inside-out and knows exactly what I want. More importantly she knows what I need. For example, on Father’s Day I received a “nose hair trimmer.” Who else but your spouse can give you a gift like that and not insult you? (It may be because I bought her deodorant for Christmas.) Regardless, gifts are a great way to feel loved. Whenever I receive one it is a token of love and appreciation.
 

 

The Apostle Paul explains God sharing His love for us in the form of gift giving. He explains we receive specific gifts of the Spirit designed uniquely for us. Paul also discusses unity in the church in this section of his letter to the Corinthians and uses the analogy of a body. The body is one and yet has many parts. Society and even the church sometimes seeks unity in conformity, rather than encouraging each person’s uniqueness. Paul, using body imagery, reminds the church of Corinth that each part of the body is important. Combined with the imagery of spiritual gifts, we see how each gift is needed just like every part of the body is needed. May you feel loved and appreciated as you go through the life long process of discovering and exploring your spiritual gift from God. May your gift be used to strengthen and build up the body of Christ.

 

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn



Community – Communion

“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying,’ This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” – ‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭11:23-26‬

The late Henri J.M. Nouwen wrote:

When Jesus came to redeem mankind, he came to free us from the boundaries of time. Through him it became clear not only that God is with us wherever our presence is in time or space, but also that our past does not have to be forgotten or denied but can be remembered and forgiven.

When Jesus left His apostles, He gave them bread and wine in memory of what He did so He could stay in their presence until the moment of His return. The word “eucharist,” which means thanksgiving, expresses a way of accepting life in which the past and future are brought together in the present moment. This thanksgiving by remembering what Jesus has done helps us to celebrate the past, present, and future. That is why each time we celebrate communion Pastor Deb or myself say, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” The past is represented by His death and sacrifice. The present is represented through His Resurrection power. The future is represented by His return in final glory.

This Sunday will be a Communion Sunday and we will have three different ways to celebrate and remember. Persons may receive Communion through the common cup by drinking from it and sharing bread. Others may choose to celebrate through “intinction” whereby a person dips a piece of bread into a common cup or chalice. The third way to receive Communion will be to take a wafer and small individual glass of juice to drink. We look forward to this Sunday celebrating our meal of remembrance together.

In Christ love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn



Community – Liberty

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.” – 1 Corinthians 10:23 ESV‬‬

The word liberty is thrown about quite regularly around July 4th. We celebrate our nation’s Declaration of Independence from Britain. We have parades, eat hot dogs, and shoot off fireworks all in the name of liberty and freedom. But how do we define this lofty term?

Here are some famous quotes regarding freedom and liberty:

“The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time.”- Thomas Jefferson

“Liberty cannot be established without morality, and morality without faith.” – Alexis de Tocqueville

“Tensions exist in any free society. But the freedom we enjoy rests on the foundation of individual liberty and shared moral values.” – Tipper Gore

Paul discusses with the community of Corinth the importance of liberty. Paul reminds them even though they have the freedom to do whatever they want, they should practice behaviors that build up the body of Christ. Our freedom and liberty are not just individual, but corporate. We are given freedom by God for the greater good of community. May we continue to remember to be grateful for our freedoms. May we also continue to share freedom in Christ with others.

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn



Community – Marriage

You were bought with a price; do not become servants to other men or women.” – 1 Corinthians 7:23

I have performed close to 3,000 weddings and each time I remind the couple that successful marriages are more than beautiful weddings. Weddings are one day and a great celebration, but pale in comparison to the important work of building a strong marriage. Strong marriages are built over time. The Apostle Paul comments about marriages to the Corinthians. A lot of his conversation has to do with expectations.

As we enter into marriage, we have dozens of unspoken expectations for the small, seemingly incidental details of life together (ie., who cleans the bathroom?) as well as the major, significant components of life (ie, who sacrifices to care for a sick child or aging parent?). Sometimes we’re not even cognizant of our expectations until others fail to meet them. Sometimes an expectation emanates out of our wounds, which makes it more difficult for us to identify the expectation, let alone discern what drives it. When we experience disappointment in marriage and it’s no one’s fault (such as loss of employment due to corporate downsizing), we generally grieve and figure out how to move on. It’s the disappointments that point back to our unrealistic expectations for each other, that tend to be harder to overcome.


Deb and I have had our share of disappointments. When Deb married me she was filled with naïve optimism. As much as she tried to fix me the first few years of our marriage she realized soon enough I was far from perfect. I also had certain expectations of Deb that were also not being realized. Together we worked for a stronger relationship. Instead of blaming each other for our disappointments, we learned to confess our failures and own our areas of weakness. My prayer for you today is that you would ask the Lord to help you do three things: repent of any unfair expectations, appreciate your spouse’s strengths, and develop realistic expectations.

“Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭7:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Special thanks to Pastor Greg Strunk who will be preaching this Sunday at our Lakeville Campus and Pastor Mike Lee who will be preaching at our Inver Grove Heights Campus. Don’t miss this Sunday!

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn



Community – Immorality

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭6:19‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I read this passage and I think back to our “Get Fit” series. We discussed keeping our “Temples” or bodies in shape. That is somewhat a stretch of the text. Not that God does not want us to be physically fit, but God wants more than just fit bodies. God knows our body, mind, and spirit are intertwined with our faith. If we abuse our body it affects our faith life. Paul goes on to list a number of sins that affect our personal bodies as well the “the body,” known as the church. Paul clearly states if anyone in the community of believers is sinning it affects others so we need to help each other on our faith journey.

I regularly get together with our men’s group to discuss the upcoming weekly Scripture and message. Today we discussed 1 Corinthians Chapters 5 and 6. The overall theme is about Immorality but there so many truths it is difficult to touch them all in one message. This Sunday Pastor Mark (at IGH Campus) and I will both be preaching on how to allow our body, minds and spirits to experience the kingdom of heaven. May we together in the midst of community learn to live out a healthy body ethic according to God’s Word.

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn



Community – Servant

“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭4:1-2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

 

I drove a Ford Escort for about 10 years that had a personalized license plate. It was the word, “SERVANT.” I got a lot of strange looks driving and was often asked when filling up with gas if I was a “butler or something.” It was an opportunity when asked to explain that early Christians were called servants. Some people would ask more questions and others would give me a strange look and stop talking. Either way I gave them something to think about. My new license plate is IPRAY. A conversation for another day.

The Apostle Paul talks about how as believers our role should be that of a servant. The word translated here as “servant” is “diakonos” (the word sometimes used to refer to a table waiter). A diakonos cared for the needs of others rather than his or her own needs. It denotes a person who serves in some subservient and humble role. Paul wanted to remind believers that they were to put aside their differences and have more of a servant’s attitude toward other believers. Jesus said that to be greatest we need to learn how to be servants. He also emphasized with His disciples the need for being more concerned about other’s needs over our own.

I don’t know about you but having a servant heart is not easy. I tend to be selfish and have to fight against my own self centered desires. I like to be comfortable and when in a servant role it is often an uncomfortable situation. Yet, God calls us to live as servants.

May we all evaluate our desires this week and humbly submit to God’s desire for our lives. May we all put on a servant apron this week and look for ways to serve others. Lastly, may we serve those around us even though it makes us uncomfortable.

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn



Community – Unity

“But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭2:9-10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

In the beginning God created everything to be in harmony and unity with each other: man, woman, animals, plants, and Himself. God and Adam spent time together every day and all things were good. Then Adam and Eve disobeyed God, sin entered the world, and now humanity had to deal with Good and Evil. Evil is overcome when God enters into the picture and is in unity with humanity once again through a covenant with Jesus Christ. We see the Biblical principle that there is great power available to do anything when men and women are in unity and even more so if they are in unity with God.

So what destroys unity? Selfishness. Plain and simple. It is impossible to establish unity when someone is looking out for their own interest. Selfishness is a major reason that many Christians and many church’s never experience all that God has for them. The power to live a powerful Christian life and impact the world comes from unity. Divorce and broken relationships happen when we focus on ourselves rather than how we can strengthen our relationships. Paul reminds us in the book of Philippians unity comes from regarding others more important than ourselves. When we have affection and compassion for others God’s fullness comes into our lives. None of us think of ourselves as selfish, but when we look at God’s Word we discover we are. The Apostle Paul also reminds us we need to ask the Spirit to reveal our selfish desires. It is through the Spirit we understand how to experience true unity with God and others.

May the God who loves all remind us to focus on other people’s needs more. May the power of the Holy Spirit help change our priorities today to align with God’s will for unity.  

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn



Community – Saints

1 Corinthians 1:2 “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.”

The Greek word for saints is an interesting one. It is the word “hagios” and means “most holy thing” so a saint is a holy person. But aren’t all humans sinners, even after they are saved? Does God consider believers as saints? Paul, as is his custom, opens his epistles (letters) with greetings to the saints or the set apart or holy ones. They have no inherent holiness, of course, but they are made holy by Jesus’ blood shed for them on the cross.

Paul is not the only one to call Christians saints. The Apostle John calls them saints in the Book of Revelation 14:12 where it is written, “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.” There is a theme found in all of the New Testament verses where a saint is mentioned and it is almost always associated with those who are in Christ or have faith in Christ. Without Christ, being a saint is impossible. With Christ, it is possible. A saint is anyone who has been saved and then they are set apart for holy use.  They are made holy by Christ’s death and shed blood. That is exactly what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:11, “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Without this “washing” by Christ’s blood, we could be no more holy than a cow is made sacred by worship of the false god Baal from 1 Kings 18. The word “saints” and “sanctified” are used frequently in the New Testament when referring to the body of believers, like in 1 Corinthians 1:2 “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ–their Lord and ours.” Here Paul uses the term “holy people,” and “to those sanctified” when referring to the church.

There is no need to await beatification (sainthood achieved) as some faith traditions believe. It doesn’t take ten, twenty, or a hundred years. If you have repented and trusted in Christ, you are a saint of God today, right now! Why would Paul declare to the believers they were saints at the time he was writing to them, while they were still alive, if it was only for the dead? It makes no sense for Paul to write to “the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae” or in Corinth, or at Rome if they were dead! There is nothing in the Bible that teaches someone has to be dead for a certain number of years before they can be referred to as a saint or reach beatification. That is not taught in Scripture. You are a SAINT today if you have placed your faith in Christ. There are only two kinds of people on earth right now, as the late Adrian Rogers said; “there are saints and there are ain’ts.” There are none in the middle. There is no fence anyone can sit on when deciding whether to live out one’s salvation or not. My prayer for you this day is to claim your sainthood and live it out for others to see.

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn



Reset – Reset Our Welcome

“You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
‭‭Leviticus‬ ‭19:34‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭25:35, 40‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I received some feedback the past few weeks from guests I have invited to church.  We have also had guests that have come for baptisms or this last week for the Ordination of Michael Rivera. Feedback I received is that we are a friendly church, but mostly friendly to each other. Greeters say “hi” but beyond that people do not engage much. I found this is common in many churches. CROSSROADS strives to be a place where people feel loved and accepted. Here are some tips if you see someone new hanging around on a Sunday morning.

Hi! I am _____________. Have we met before? I am so glad you are here. Affirm the fact that they showed up for worship. I have heard from numerous CROSSROADS guests who returned because they were simply told “we are glad you’re here.”

Let me help you with that.” If you see someone struggling with umbrellas, young children, diaper bags, purses, and other items, a gesture to hold something for them is a huge positive. Of course, this comment is appropriate for us to help each other as well.

Can I show you where you need to go?” Even in smaller churches like CROSSROADS, guests will not know where to find the nursery, restrooms, and small group meeting areas. You can usually tell when a guest does not know where he or she is to go. Bring them over to Pastor Deb or myself and we are also glad to help show them around.  

Please take my Seat.” This comment came from a member to a young family of five who were trying to find a place to sit together. I was so blessed as a pastor last Sunday to see a member of CROSSROADS give up their seat. Slide away from the aisle or get up and let a guest or guests take a seat particularly if they enter late. It is simple courtesy, but we can get used to sitting in our usual seats.

Let me introduce you to ___________.” The return rate of guests is always higher if they meet other people. Take the opportunity to introduce the guest to one of our pastors, other church staff, and other members of the church. Be sure to wear your nametag so new people can get to know your name easily.

“Come sit with me.” Inviting someone to sit with you shows guests you are invested in them, and gives them a sense of belonging they wouldn’t have if they sat somewhere by themselves. Obviously, use this one with discretion for it’s possible they would prefer to sit elsewhere, but if conversation seems to come easy between you both consider inviting them to sit with you.

Here is my email address or cell phone number. Please let me know if I can help in any way.” Of course, this comment must be used with discretion, but it can be a positive message to a guest to say you are willing to connect.

Would you join us for lunch?” I saved this question for last for two reasons. First, the situation must obviously be appropriate before you offer the invitation. Second, I have seen this approach have the highest guest return rate of any one factor. “Lunch Bunch” does this at Inver Grove Heights Campus quite well. We need to seek ways to let others connect with us and as Scripture tell us to welcome the stranger.

CROSSROADS is an awesome church with amazing people. Let’s all work together to offer the love of Jesus in practical ways to all who enter. Let us do what Jesus commands to heal the sick, share good news of the Kingdom of God and welcome the stranger in our midst.

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn



Reset – Resetting Our Spirit

“When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Peter said, ‘Change your life. Turn to God and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is targeted to you and your children, but also to all who are far away—whomever, in fact, our Master God invites.’”
‭‭Acts‬ ‭2:1-4, 38-39‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Nick Hall wrote a book entitled “RESET: Jesus Changes Everything.” It is a book filled with stories of faith. One talks about the power of the Holy Spirit working in ways we do not understand. When Nick was in college he went on a mission trip to India. He and his team were so excited to be there to do outreach and evangelism. The only problem is it is hard to do outdoor evangelism in pouring down rain. Nick states: “After three consecutive nights of waterworks, poor attendance and soaked dress shoes, our team was ready to throw in the towel. We wondered what we were doing in India anyway. It all felt so pointless…. I asked a local pastor if the people in this area thought their Hindu gods were defeating the Christian God because of all the rain. Our pastor friend turned to me ecstatically and said, ‘People don’t think their gods are defeating yours. Not at all! Word is spreading through the villages that the God of Christians has brought the rain’.” Nick and his team thought God needed their preaching, but all God needed was their presence to promote God’s miracle. God’s Spirit spread the Good News more than any crusade was able to. In the end the rains stopped and over 50,000 people came to know Jesus through their efforts.

In today’s Scripture we see the witness of the early church. Some even call Pentecost our Christian church birthday. The Disciples sought after the gift of the Holy Spirit and received it. The Disciples and all who gathered witnessed the presence and power of God through the Holy Spirit. Some repented and believed. Over 3000 were saved that day. Each of us personally also have the opportunity to receive the Holy Spirit.

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn