Weekly Devotion

 

UNSTUFFED

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭2:8-10‬ ‭NIV‬‬
This weekend like many of you I will be getting stuffed. Stuffed with food, stuffed with shopping, and stuffed with decorating. The good news is we are actually cutting back on some things to focus on the things that matter most to us. I will still eat my share of turkey, but will also be working harder this season to serve and share with others.
Thanksgiving to Christmas season can feel “stuffed” with everything except the reason for the season. Are your holidays stuffed beyond what you can bear? Maybe instead of adding more to our lives, we can take this time to simplify Christmas season and get back to the heart behind it all? Think today about what you can “unstuff” to make room for Jesus this Christmas season. Continue to celebrate that Christ has come as Immanuel to remind us God is with us. Join us this Sunday at CROSSROADS as we discuss how to eliminate some of the stresses of the season.
In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn
 


Celebration Sunday – Gratitude

At least once a year we take time to celebrate the various lives that are changed through CROSSROADS CHURCH. We call our fall gathering “Celebration Sunday” and we lift up ministries that are making a difference in our communities. We take time to show gratitude to God and to say “thank you” to everyone at CROSSROADS who has invested in making a kingdom impact.

There are a lot of benefits to having an attitude of gratitude. According to a recent article in Huffington Post, a lot of continued research has been done on focusing on gratitude. Three decades ago, Martin Seligman and colleagues launched the scientific studies of emotions such as gratitude, optimism, forgiveness, happiness, compassion, and altruism.

What they learned is cultivating gratitude leads to greater happiness and resilience. Moreover, of all the attributes one can develop, gratitude is most strongly associated with mental health. Gratitude is our emotion that relates to our ability to feel and express thankfulness and appreciation. 

Traditionally, the study of this emotion has been relegated to the fields of theology and philosophy. In 2007, Robert Emmons began researching gratitude through a psychological lens. He found expressing gratitude improves mental, physical, and relational well-being. Being grateful also impacts the overall experience of happiness, and these effects tend to be long-lasting.

Benefits of gratitude include:

    1. Improved physical, emotional, and social well-being.
    2. Greater optimism and happiness.
    3. Improved feelings of connection in times of loss or crisis.
    4. Heightened energy levels, strengthened heart, immune system, and decreased blood pressure.
    5. Expanded capacity for forgiveness.
    6. Decreased stress, anxiety, depression, and headaches.
    7. Improved self-care and greater likelihood to exercise.
    8. Heightened spirituality — ability to see something bigger than ourselves.

My hope for you today is you will begin to see all the blessings around you and express gratitude for them. I will also be praying you take time to come Sunday and celebrate with CROSSROADS. It is going to be an awesome day with a combined worship of the Inver Grove Heights and Lakeville Campuses. Come ready to celebrate and express gratitude for all that God has done.

In Christ,
Pastor Paul


All Saints’ Eve

Christians sometimes get upset about the holiday known as, “All Saints Eve,” or, “Halloween.”  For most it is about getting candy and going to parties in costume. For some, they still celebrate the darker origins of this pagan festival. Many holidays such as Christmas or Easter began around times of famous pagan celebrations. The early church took those pagan celebrations where everyone gathered already and encouraged Christian remembrance for those days. That is why the CROSSROADS family still gathers to celebrate this holiday rather than discontinue meeting. This Wednesday we will be having a “harvest party” with optional costumes, playing games, and enjoying the fellowship of other believers.

Jeni Peterson from the CROSSROADS family sent me an illustration that reminds us God shapes all of us just like we shape pumpkins on Halloween.

In many ways as Christians we are like a pumpkin being carved into a Jack-O-Lantern. When we have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, God scoops out all the muck inside us. He rids us of our sin. God puts a smile on our face and gives us eyes to see the world in a new way. And like a Jack-O-Lantern that glows in the night, we are also given an inner light through the power of the Holy Spirit. We are reminded that Jesus said “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness.”  Jesus even challenges us as believers to be salt and light to world. When we light a candle in a pumpkin, we need to also remember to shine that light on those around us. As you trick or treat, attend parties or celebrate All Saints Day please do it in a way that spreads the love of Jesus Christ.

Pastor Paul Marzahn



Be Rich

Let them do good, that they be rich in good deeds. Ready to give and ready to share.

– 1 Timothy 6:18

Pastor Deb and I are currently in Calcutta, India as I write this devotional. It has definitely given me a new perspective on what it means to “Be Rich.” We are staying at a Christian guest house owned by a local mission society. It is $12 per day per person and includes breakfast. It is very similar to the dorm room I lived in during my college years.  

For breakfast I was given a boiled egg, a banana, and toast. It did not seem like quite enough so I reached for the bowl on the counter to grab a second egg. The Bengalii man behind the counter looked at me sternly and said, “one egg.” At first I was taken back. Who are you to tell me what I can and cannot eat? I was “hangry”, (hungry and angry) and not in the mood to be told no.

Then the man said something that broke my heart and made me understand. “One egg, Not enough. Everyone eat.” He was letting me know if I take two eggs someone will go without. He was not being stingy. He was reminding me to eat less so everyone could eat.

To “Be a Rich” we have to remember to share and be generous. Many of us have been blessed and forget how much we truly have. We often forget to give thanks to the one who truly gives us all we have.

Remember this week not to put your trust in riches, but in the one who richly provides. May you be blessed as you give and as you serve.

In Christ,

Pastor Paul Marzahn



Living Your Strengths

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

‭‭-Psalm‬ ‭139:13-14‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I grew up a runner, and one of my all time favorite movies is Chariots of Fire. One character in the movie who is both a missionary and a runner is named Eric Little. Some wondered why he chose to run instead of focusing full time work in missions. He answered his critics that God created him to run. He stated: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast!”
I love when people figure out God created them for a purpose. When we start understanding God’s will for our lives we feel joy like nothing else. Although I still get a little nervous every time before preaching, once I start speaking I feel a sense of God’s purpose flow through me. It doesn’t mean I don’t get outside my comfort zone. It does mean I feel most fulfilled and experience the most productivity when I use the strengths given to me by God. 

Strengthsfinder is an inventory tool I use to help business leaders, school administrators, teachers, youth, and others discover their 5 key strengths. Less than 12% of most Americans feel they are working in an area of their strength. Once people focus on their strengths instead of fixing their weaknesses it can become life changing. My prayer for you is you discover God’s purpose for your life and live out the strengths God has given you. As you are living your strengths, may God use you to share the love of God with others.

In Christ,

Pastor Paul Marzahn


Living In Community

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.

-Acts 2:42-45

When Deb and I started CROSSROADS CHURCH it began as 5 people in our living room discussing the Book of Acts. When we discussed Acts 2 we all prayed our new family called, CROSSROADS could live like the early Christian believers. We wanted vibrant, life changing worship. We craved intimate fellowship in small groups. We spent time in prayer, fellowship, and breaking bread in each of our homes. Then God added to our numbers and we outgrew our living room. We started a second small group down the street, and then a third within the first six months of the church. We made small groups a Core Value of the church and declared groups are not a program of the church, they are THE CHURCH.

God created us to be in community. God made the church family to encourage and support one another. Small groups and worship allow us to grow with God and one another.

I ran into an early CROSSROADS Member at the gym who moved away from the church and is now back in the area. We were reminiscing about the early days 20 years ago. He said those were, “some of my greatest memories of being on fire for God and my church family.” I gently reminded him he could visit CROSSROADS anytime and enjoy that fellowship again. He pulled a “Pastor Paul” and said he “would pray about it.” I hope and pray he certainly does.

We all need a place to call our spiritual home. CROSSROADS is a great place to call home. Yet, we all need small groups to have the intimate relationships we crave to grow deeper with God and one another. This Sunday at CROSSROADS is small group Sunday. We hope you will come celebrate the value of small groups with us. We also hope you may find or start a new small group that can help you grow in Christ.

Blessings,

Pastor Paul Marzahn


Aiming For True Greatness

2 Peter 3:17-18  – 17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

Raising kids (and grandkids) is not easy. My first priority has always been to not kill them or injure them. Anything else is a blessing. Our first daughter Rebekah had to be resilient. We took her everywhere and she did everything we did. I remember her first summer with us when I was a youth pastor when we were part of the church sand volleyball league. Bekah came to every game with us and we often carried her around in a child carrier backpack so she could stay close. One game we were short players so I joined into the game. Bekah was strapped to my back giggling the whole time as she watched the ball flying around the court. Things went really well until the ball was spiked low and I decided to dive for it. Needless to say Bekah did not appreciate the sudden lurch into the sand. Fortunately, Bekah survived my lack of judgement, and I survived my wife Deb who saw what I did. No wonder my daughter Bekah has been cautious with letting me watch my grandson Bellamy the first year of his life. Fortunately, both my wife and my daughter have extended me grace through the years in spite of my imperfections.

Peter talks about, “growing in grace.” Grace is not a static, one time gift. It is a process of understanding God’s love for us more fully. The Greek word for grace is “charis,” which also translates into the words love, thankfulness, or kindness. It is a reminder God’s favor was given to humanity as a gift through Jesus Christ. We did not deserve this gift, therefore we are thankful God came in the flesh as Jesus and sacrificed himself upon the cross. The sacrifice of Jesus paid for our sins and gave us the gift of eternal life. When we receive this gift (undeserved grace) we understand more fully our relationship with God. This allows us to grow in our knowledge of Jesus and strengthen our relationship with God.

This week in worship we will be discussing how grace needs to be a part of Christian families. Balancing grace and truth allows us as believers to strengthen our relationships. It helps us forgive each other’s faults, and at the same time expect the best in each other. May God’s grace guide you this week as you continue to share the love of Jesus Christ. May you develop rules in your home that share the character of Christ.

Pastor Paul Marzahn



The Times They Are A Changin

Bob Dylan wrote a song about the world and how a lot was in turmoil. Dylan stated:

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin
’”

What was true then is still true today. The times are changing. Politics and social issues continue to be make us more aware every day we need Jesus. The “Prince of Peace” is the one who can bring about peace when worry and anxiety overwhelm us. Only a relationship with God can bring light to our hearts and our society.

CROSSROADS CHURCH continues to try to be an instrument of God to help our community weather the storms of life.

The CROSSROADS CHURCH family is also going through changes. We are making intentional changes to help strengthen our church family by offering new resources.

NEW SERVICE TIME IN LAKEVILLE – 9:30am
September 3rd CROSSROADS CHURCH of Lakeville will consolidate our 9:00 and 10:30 service times to 9:30. There will be adult Sunday School classes at 8:30 and also at 10:45. Kids Own Worship and youth will be dismissed during the 9:30 service after the praise music portion of worship.

CHRISTIAN HERITAGE ACADEMY SCHOOL OPENING
September 11th will mark the opening of the school at CROSSROADS. There is still space to enroll your child in grades Kindergarten through 8th grade. Scholarships are available.

SELLING OF LAND TO FOUR SQUARE CHILDCARE CENTER FOR NEW BUILDING
September 14th at 6:30pm we are having an all church meeting to vote on the expansion of the Four Square Daycare Center. The plan is for Four Square to purchase a little over one acre and add a 15,000 square foot building attached to CROSSROADS CHURCH.

CAPITAL CAMPAIGN FOR SPECIAL PROJECTS AND TO PAY DOWN DEBT
CROSSROADS CHURCH is putting together a team to work on a finance campaign to help with capital improvements and also pay down mortgage debt at the Lakeville Campus.

NEW CHILDRENS AND YOUTH CURRICULUM AND LEADERSHIP
A task force was formed to look at curriculum for children and youth ministries. It was decided the new ORANGE curriculum will be used for the next year. ORANGE is great because it reminds us the church’s role is to come alongside parents to help them instruct their kids. We also recently hired Shelly Kuyatt as our Children’s Director and E.J. Lee as our Youth Director to work on implementing some of these needed changes.

We believe the Lord is leading us to these changes so as to further empower the CROSSROADS CHURCH community to be lights in the darkness of life as times continue to change.

In Christ,

Pastor Paul Marzahn


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