Weekly Devotion

 

How to Neighbor Those That are Left Out

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians‬ ‭2:3-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

When I was growing up in a rural community my neighbors were there for generations. Many were even family members. However, as I moved to the suburbs, I realized neighbors come and go. Our culture is now one that is more transient. Comparatively, learning how to neighbor in this environment has been more challenging for me. Probably for my neighbors, as well, as they have tried to put up with me and my farm antics. Many still can’t believe I swim in the pond behind our house. After all it isn’t lined with concrete and it doesn’t have a filter system.

Our neighbor Becky Nelson lived by us for over 10 years. She was amazing and still is even though she now lives in St. Paul. She knew how to be a great neighbor. She would loan us her power washer, air compressor, lawnmower, or snow blower and never complained when it took me a week to return them.

Looking back I seldom did much to help her. Fortunately, my wife is not like me. When Becky had to go through surgery and was laid up for a while, my wife Deb would go over and water her plants or walk her dogs. She would even shovel the sidewalk if it was needed. I can’t prove it, but I’m sure she even brought food over when I wasn’t looking. You know, come to think of it, my wife is an awesome neighbor, too.

As I was reflecting on this passage of scripture, I realized I fall quite short of following it. And not only with my neighbor Becky. My biggest problem is I’m not always seeing the needs of others. I need to put on a different set of lenses. One that focuses on others and not myself. Maybe you struggle sometimes with that same issue. I believe God calls us to neighbor those around us. Those who physically live next to us, and also those who need us. That is what the Apostle Paul was trying to teach his church family in Philippi. It is what every church family should be doing. Christ followers should be the best neighbors around. I’ll say it again – Christ followers should be the best neighbors around! I am going to try harder to live up to being a better Christ follower. May each of us do better at being the neighbors Christ would have us be.

Pastor Paul Marzahn



Christian Atheist – I Believe In God, But I Don’t Want To Go Overboard

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit (vomit) you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked… (Revelation 3:15-17)

In the early days of CROSSROADS CHURCH a group of us went skydiving together as part of our “No Fear” worship series. On the way up to 10,000 feet I admit I was feeling pretty queasy. Everything I had for breakfast was reminding me it was in my stomach as it increasingly churned with the elevation. It didn’t help that they left the plane door open so we could see the ground as the plane ascended.  

We hit our elevation and two others jumped before me. I could hear their screams as they were drug out of the plane. Since these were tandem parachute jumps, the instructors jumped and we had no choice but to follow. We crawled out on the wing to jump next and that is when I saw and smelled it. The person in front of me had vomited all over the plane! The plane propellor had done an excellent job of spraying it all over. I was repulsed beyond belief. For a short moment it took my mind off of being 10,000 feet in the air. Reality sunk in quickly however as my instructor jumped off the wing and I soon followed. I didn’t vomit, but I came close.

The word “spit” in today’s Scripture also translates from the Greek word “em eo” (em-eh’-o); to spit, vomit, utter rejection, puke, or supremely repulsed. It is a reminder from God’s perspective that a lukewarm faith is repulsive to God.

This passage from Revelation is one of seven letters to seven churches. This letter was written to the church of Laodicea which was a wealthy Roman community now located in modern day Turkey. This church struggled with a lukewarm faith in God. They believed in God, but their actions demonstrated otherwise. That is why God said He wanted to vomit. Their lack of obedience in their faith made them repulsive to God. Thus God wanted to vomit them out unless they changed. God doesn’t need more lukewarm Christians. God needs fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ who live out their faith.

Pastor Paul Marzahn



Christian Atheist – Trust

I Believe in God But I Don’t Trust Him 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

A former Youth Director and intern Samantha Lewis (now Sam Evans), recently wrote a blog about a time we went camping at a place called Star Lake Wilderness Camp and went canoeing down the Pine River. As I have been reflecting on trust this week I thought about how she trusted me as her co-leader to take her some place she had never been and bring her home safely. She also trusted me with a sharp knife. Check out her story:

Day Three out on the river I could still smell myself at that point and something had to be done. The water level was low and the current was lazy due to lack of rain that year. Therefore, I couldn’t simply wade out from shore.

My friend Paul and I canoed out to the middle of the river. The first thing that I had to do was jump out of the canoe without tipping it. I stood atop the seat, did my best to jump more upward than outward, and Paul managed to counterbalance the abrupt motion.

I scrubbed my hair with shampoo while treading water. Treading water in a river—with no hands— is difficult. Every few minutes I’d latch on to the lip of the canoe and Paul would paddle backwards toward where our camp was set up. I finally finished washing my hair and I swung one of my legs up over the side of the canoe to check for leeches.

I wasn’t actually supposed to find one on my shin. I was certainly not supposed to find two. Brown with a translucent quality to them, one was about an inch long and a centimeter wide. The other was much smaller—just a cute, little baby leech learning the ways of the world. There was no screaming, but there was panic. I tried to pull Baby off and it latched onto my thumb instead. I used the edge of the canoe to scrape it off.

“I have a knife,” Paul offered. “Do it, please,” I replied. After he scraped off the second one, I pulled my second leg up. Paul readied his knife. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. I have never worked so hard just to wash my hair. Here’s the thing to realize, as gross as that experience was, if I got three leeches on my legs treading water in the current, imagine how many I could have collected had I waded through knee-deep muck and the cesspools along the shore. I would have emerged looking like a cheetah. Our friends on the shore thought we were nuts, but I was clean and refreshed and they were not.

As I was reflecting on this camping adventure, I realized how much trust Sam had by co-leading with me. Up to this point, she had respected me as Senior Pastor. She had even demonstrated loyalty as an intern to come early every Sunday and help set up at North Trail Elementary School. Yet, this camping trip put her outside her comfort zone. She had to trust me in a way she had never demonstrated before. She had to decide if following me was the right path. Through our relationship together we built mutual trust.  

God wants to build a relationship with you so you will trust in Him. He wants you to do more than simply believe in Him. God wants you to live your life in such a way that you rely on Him each and every day. Even when the going gets tough, God wants you to put your trust in Him that He will see you through.
Blessings In Christ,

Sam and I at Star Lake Wilderness Camp.

Pastor Paul Marzahn


YOUnited States of America

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” He replied.,“How do you read it?” He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, with all your mind, all your strength and, Love your neighbor as yourself.”               – Luke‬ ‭10:25-27‬ ‭NIV‬‬

During the time of Jesus, the law of Moses was debated frequently. It was both a moral code and a civil law that was to be interpreted. Other volumes of commentaries written by Rabbi’s, called “Midrash”, were often discussed by influential leaders. Jesus was being questioned to see what political party or leader he followed. Was he a Pharisee or a Sadducee? Was he taught by the Essenes or did he follow the teachings of the Sanhedrin? Would he vote conservative or liberal? Progressive or Libertarian? Jesus refused to follow any party lines. He summed up the Law in words of love.

The United States of America is a nation of laws. But laws merely define what is permissible or not. It only defines what we can or cannot do. Laws don’t tell us what we should do. Laws define our rights without the necessary counterpart: our responsibilities. My favorite line from Voltaire (and Spider-Man) – “With great power comes great responsibility.”  As Christians living in this nation of laws, we can do better. We can follow Christ’s command to, “love our neighbors as ourselves”. We can exercise our personal rights with great responsibility in caring for others. A true YOUnited States is less focused on getting our way and is instead focused on following God’s way. May God’s Law of Love guide you this week and always.

In Christ’s Service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn


Downfall: Pride

“Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride? Against the Holy One of Israel!” 2 Kings‬ ‭19:22‬ ‭NIV‬‬

A pastor was recently telling my prayer group that lately that he was feeling like the joint in the middle of a mobile. He felt like the section that holds all the floating toys above a crib. He shared that on his “mobile” were all the employees of the church, the bills the ministry had to pay, and his wife and family.  The needs of people within the church were  spinning with people that were dying, those that were just kicked out of their homes, couples that were going through divorces.
His pain and pressure hit close to my heart and the hearts of many pastors in the room.


Pastors carry the weight of a lot ministry concerns and also their personal family lives, and friendships. So, if I’m this joint in the middle how do I balance it all? I began to pray into that question and realized that a big part of being a Christian is not being that joint. Although we have responsibilities, and although we matter, Christ is the joint. Jesus is what is holding us all together. It is our pride that makes us think we need to be in the center.  God should be at the center of our life mobile because only God can care for all things. He’ll take care of us, and he’ll take care of the people that we’re responsible for. May God show all of us our part in helping to take care of others.  May God release us from having to be everything for everybody. May you remind us God that you are the one who holds it all together.
 
In Christ’s Service, 
 
Pastor Paul 


Downfall: Divided Families

“I tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you, but you have not been like my servant David, who kept my commands and followed me with all his heart, doing only what was right in my eyes.” 1 Kings 14:8

 

There is a story about a king who sends his military out to defend the Kingdom. A knight and his men return to their castle after a long hard day of fighting.”How are we faring?” asks the king. “Sire,” replies the knight, “I have been robbing and pillaging on your behalf all day, burning the towns of your enemies in the west.” “What?!” shrieks the king.  “I don’t have any enemies to the west!”
“Oh, no…” says the knight.  “Well, you do now.”

 
It is easy to have divided kingdom’s and divided families. Misunderstandings happen. Bad communication can contribute to the problem. It is hard to maintain unity. In today’s scripture passage, division is occurring in the nation of Israel. Selfishness, pride, and sin are all at the root of the division. This passage reminds us to be careful. We must always be vigilant to watch out for division. Today’s Scripture reminds us that following God with all our heart leads us to building the kingdom of God rather than dividing it. This week reflect on how the Reign of God heals strife in your own life.
 
In Christ’s Service, 
 
Pastor Paul 


Downfall:The Rise & Fall of a Kingdom

“Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

  • 1 Kings 3:7-9

 

It was supposed to be my dream team.  A team made up of the best softball players I know.  We were going to be invincible.  We should have dominated the tournament, but instead I think we lost 4 out of 5.  Humbly we were forced to admit defeat and head home early.  

 

No one expects to get tripped up.  No one sets out on a hike thinking, “today is going to be a great day to take a fall.”  No, it often catches us by surprise.  But what if there were some warning signs we could pay attention to?  What if we could avoid it?  What can we learn from the Downfall of others so we can avoid making the same mistakes?  

 

Solomon was only about 20 years old when he became King of Israel.  He was young, inexperienced and tasked with not only ruling God’s chosen people, but with building a temple worthy of God.  Talk about overwhelming circumstances.  So when the Lord appears to Solomon in a dream and encourages him to ask for whatever he wants, Solomon asks for wisdom.  

 

Kingdoms rise and fall with wisdom.  Wisdom can build a great nation, a strong kingdom, a house that stands.  But the absence of wisdom, or a choice to ignore wisdom’s advice can be costly, and eventually it would cost Solomon the kingdom.  We may not be building a monarchy, but each of us have “kingdoms” of our own.  No matter how hard we try though, no kingdom is invincible when we build them in our own strength.  Instead, we are encouraged from Solomon’s story to build our kingdoms with the wisdom of God.  

 

In Christ’s Service,

 

Pastor Gordon


Rising to the Challenge: Purpose and Passion

Then Samson prayed to the Lord, “Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.”                                                                                               Judges‬ ‭16:28‬
 
 
Most people know only fragments about the Old Testament judge Samson. He had long hair, superhuman strength, and was seduced by Delilah. Yet, there is so much more worth knowing. Like many of us, Samson allowed himself to be controlled by his appetites. Samson’s life was out of control. Judges 14 through 16 details the drama and violence of Samson’s life: his wedding, his fits of rage, his slaughters, and  his encounter by the seductress Delilah.
 
 
Samson lost everything before he realized what really matters. It wasn’t too late for Samson, and it’s not too late for you. You don’t have to resign yourself to the way you are, fearing you’ll never be changed. You can change just like Samson, not by your own power but by the power of the Holy Spirit. Do you recall how Samson’s story ends? God strengthened him once more, and he toppled the pillars of the Philistine house. But that’s not all, there’s a jaw-dropping footnote about Samson’s life. Hebrews 11:32 lists him as a man of faith. Samson’s failures didn’t disqualify him from God’s family.
 
In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastors Paul and Deb Marzahn


Rising to the Challenge: Courage

When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”                                                                      Judges 6:12
 
In the book of Judges we see many demonstrations of courage. We see a woman named Deborah lead an army of Israelites into battle. She faces huge adversity with courage.  We also see a man named Gideon who fights battles as God’s mighty warrior. He leads a small band of 300 men to take on an entire army of Midianites.  The Judges confronted fear and with God’s help became “mighty warriors.”
 
A mighty American warrior was a woman named Eleanor Roosevelt. She overcame tremendous adversity as the First Lady during World War Two. She stated: “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, `I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ The danger lies in refusing to face the fear, in not daring to come to grips with it… You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
 
 

In Christ’s Love and Service,

Pastors Paul and Deb Marzahn



Rising to the Challenge: Step Up

But then GOD raised up judges who saved them from their plunderers. But they wouldn’t listen to their judges; they prostituted themselves to other gods—worshiped them! They lost no time leaving the road walked by their parents, the road of obedience to GOD’s commands. They refused to have anything to do with it.       Judges‬ ‭2:16-17‬
 
One of our biggest struggles is passing on our faith to the next generation. The Hebrew people had left the oppression of slavery in Egypt and had conquered the promised land. Now they were entering into a new chapter in their faith journey. The battle before the Israelites was now spiritual. They needed to obey God’s Word and follow God’s law. When Joshua and his generation passed away, the spiritual devotion to God also started passing away. As they moved further from God their lives became more difficult.
 
As parents, grandparents and friends we need to rise to the challenge of living out our faith and then sharing it with others. Why is it we want our kids in the best schools, the best sports programs, best music programs, but then do so little to raise them up in their faith?  How do we demonstrate with the next generation the importance of engaging in a daily devotion life, worship and the study of God’s Word in small groups? Allow your faith to become contagious to others. Step up your faith walk and you will see others grow as well.
 
 

In Christ’s Love and Service,

Pastors Paul and Deb Marzahn