Walking To The Cross – The Centurion

“When the Roman officer overseeing the execution saw what had happened, he worshiped God and said, ‘Surely this man was innocent.’” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭23:47‬ ‭NLT‬‬
 
A Pastor and colleague of mine by the name of Sean Gladding is great at picking apart Scripture. We both are students at Asbury Seminary and love to look at the Bible in unique ways. For the last ten years at CROSSROADS, we have celebrated Palm to Passion Sunday in a unique way with a dramatic approach. We have looked at the story of Jesus through the eyes of John, Peter, Judas, Mary & Lazarus, and a variety of other Biblical characters. We have also looked at the Story with a modern twist like we did two years ago as a CNN news report. But in examining the last week of Jesus life rarely do we hear the story from an “outsider’s perspective.” My friend Pastor Sean wrote a drama for his church looking at Jesus through the eyes of the Centurion mentioned briefly in the Bible. We have adapted his drama to share at CROSSROADS this Sunday and again next Wednesday the 17th as a dinner theater production.
 
The Centurion mentioned in Scripture was probably versed in the Hebrew culture but did not truly understand its intricacies. He was unfamiliar with the true nature of the Messiah and probably confused by this radical religious culture that refused the hospitality of Rome. After all they brought in new roads, aqueducts & water, and money & trade. Their technology and building techniques improved their lives so why were they so hostile? The Centurion helps us understand Jesus was so profoundly unique even an outsider could see He was the Son of God.
 
What was it like to have been in Jerusalem for Passover as part of an occupying foreign army?  What would it be like to have a vague sense of the faith of the people around you, but not really understand it? What was it like to live unquestioning of your own cultural narrative until one dying man turned everything you believed upside down? We will explore these questions and more as we hear the story of Jesus through the eyes of The Centurion.
 
Come see The Centurion drama during service this Sunday and invite your friends to come to the dinner theater performance this Wednesday (tickets on sale on the home page). May we all take the time to see and hear the Story with a perspective we haven’t before.
 

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul



Walking To The Cross – Walking With The Kingdom

“‘Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.’” Luke‬ ‭12:31‬ ‭NLT‬‬
 
It is generally not a good idea to get in my way when I’m hungry. Hunger has a way of bypassing my higher brain functions and leaving me with a version of myself I am often not proud of. I’m more aggressive, less patient, and generally more likely to say something I’ll regret later. I move from hungry to “HANGRY” fairly quickly. Just ask my wife. It’s not easy for any of us to control the flesh. We are creatures consumed by many different hungers. We long for food, sex, love, control, money, security, and more. Given their proper perspective, these hungers help us to live and thrive. When these hungers are allowed to grow beyond their natural boundaries, the results are obesity, sexual immorality, idolatry, pride and gluttony.  
 
In this week’s Scripture readings, Jesus is speaking a lot about the Kingdom of God. He is reminding His listeners our desires can pull us away from the Kingdom life. For example, the love of money over love of God can quickly move us towards thinking money is the key to happiness. If we are to follow Christ, then we must learn to practice self control. Galatians 5:23 teaches self control is a fruit of the Spirit. God had given the believer the Holy Spirit, and by extension, His self-control. We only need to use it. It is no coincidence the tradition of Lent has historically included some form of self-control discipline. Jesus reminds us a “rich relationship with God is more important than earthly wealth. This relationship draws us into the Kingdom.  May you experience His kingdom presence this week.
 
In Christ’s love and service,
 

Pastor Paul Marzahn



Walking To The Cross – Walking With The Cross

“Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” Luke‬ ‭9:23‬ ‭NET‬‬
 
When Jesus first told His disciples they needed to take up their cross and follow Him, it might have been easy for them to imagine Him speaking in metaphor. That is, until they saw Him actually picking up a cross and marching off to His death. At that point, it was hard to deny the severity of their call. Jesus was serious. To follow Him, they would need to be “all in.” They would need to be willing to give up everything. It’s no wonder those disciples initially ran away and hid. I would probably have done the same! It seems so radical. Why would God ask this of His disciples?
 
A message of sacrifice probably didn’t sell well. Where were the throngs who ate the fishes and loaves? What happened to the thousands who worshipped Him when He entered the city?  They did not like this message of denial and sacrifice. Most of us, if we’re honest, want just enough Jesus to get the benefits, but not so much we feel the cost. Yet is it really possible to get one without the other?
 
This Sunday we are going to look at the question of how we can pick up our cross and serve Jesus. Why should we expect to live a life of freedom in Christ without sacrifice. May we all practice sacrifice this week as we walk toward the cross. May we all demonstrate what it means to deny ourselves and follow Jesus.
 
In Christ’s love and service,
 

Pastor Paul Marzahn



Walking To The Cross – Walking With Compassion

“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also.” Luke 6:27-29
 
Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness is one you’ve heard numerous times, but the world still needs to hear it at least once more. Everywhere you look, there is hate and retribution. Even if we look at society, one of the biggest movie blockbusters this summer is Avengers: Endgame. For us, Jesus was the ultimate Avenger. This Avenger didn’t fight with His fists, but instead fought with love. He tells us to do likewise.
 
We live in a world where we’re often informed of injustices performed by others. Even just last week, there was a shooting in New Zealand. We yearn for God’s justice to reign, but until then we are called to love and forgive. It’s not easy, but it is possible.
 
In October 2006, there was a school shooting where 10 girls were killed, some of them belonging to the Amish community. They knew the shooter as the guy who delivered milk. Yet still, the Amish forgave the shooter and his family. They even attended the shooter’s funeral to support the widow and her three children. This is such an amazing act of compassion that still speaks volumes today.
 
God calls us to love our enemies and turn the other cheek. Who are the people in your life you need to forgive? How have they wronged you and how can you turn the other cheek by showing compassion? God calls us to love and forgive everyone. No exceptions.
 
Questions to consider:
Have you ever known anyone you’d consider to be an enemy? If not, then who are the people in your life you need to forgive?
 
How have you shown compassion to those who have done you wrong?
 
Where might God be calling you to bring compassion in a situation?
 
Blessings,
Mark Schlasner


Walking To The Cross – Walking In My Father’s House

“‘Why were you searching for me?’ he asked. ‘Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’” Luke‬ ‭2:49‬ ‭NIV‬‬
 
In today’s Scripture, Jesus was in the temple teaching. His parents were upset because they looked all over for Him. He let them know they should have expected to find Him in “God’s House” (His Father’s House). He wanted them to know he respected them as parents, but also that He was about doing God’s work in the world.
 
This Sunday is Saint Patrick’s Day. He was also searched for by his parents when he was kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a slave. We will be celebrating in worship at CROSSROADS someone who was willing to use a tragic circumstance in his life as a springboard to make a difference among the very people who had enslaved him. Rather than run away from conflict or opposition, St.Patrick moved toward it. Very much like Jesus. Rather than buy into fear and say, “Well, they’re a lost cause,” instead he grew to love the outsiders and gave his life over to them.  St. Patrick’s tenacity and devotion to Christ serve as a model for all of us who call ourselves Christians. So go ahead and wear your green on St. Patrick’s weekend celebrations. If you really want to honor Saint Patrick, and the Christ he served, the best way might be for you to:
 
1) Begin by connecting with someone you don’t know.
2) Offer a holy conversation to a person who needs it.
3) Engage a person at work who may be difficult for you.
4) Offer some help to a neighbor without being asked.
5) Drop a note to someone who could use some encouragement.
6) Pray with someone who is struggling physically, emotionally, or spiritually.
 
We are called to be more like Patrick and “walk among” the people of our community. We all need to offer those around us hospitality, friendship, and the Good News of Jesus Christ. It’s the kind of ministry that can transform a community and even the world. May we say with conviction that there is a wee bit of the Irish saint in all of us! Wear your GREEN this Sunday as we celebrate together St. Patrick’s day at CROSSROADS.
 
Questions To Consider:
What are some of your favorite St. Patrick’s Day traditions?
 
What do you know about the historic St. Patrick?
 
Was there ever a time in your life where your parents went looking for you?
 
In what ways are Jesus and St. Patrick similar in their ministries?
 
Who is someone you can engage that needs help around you?
 
In Christ’s love and service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn


Walking To The Cross – Ash Wednesday

Psalm 51:1 – “Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions.”
 

As I was praying this morning and asking forgiveness for the of sin in my life, I reflected on Psalm 51. When David wrote this Psalm I know it was the confessions of his personal struggles.  Yet, it seems to have been written specifically for anyone who is truly repentant of their sin. It never ceases to amaze me that God anticipates every struggle we humans have. We have those same old sins that just keep showing up in our life like dogs that get into the trash bags left on the curb every Thursday morning before the garbage truck. I call these sins “Signature Sins.” These sins seem to cling to us and we need to continually go to God for strength to battle them.

I have to constantly remind myself of what King David wrote in Psalms 51. Keep in mind, David is the only man in Scripture described as “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22). However, he was also a man guilty of terrible sin – sin he was painfully aware of: adultery, murder, bloodshed, etc. In fact, David had broken every single commandment. Guess what? So have you, and so have I. We are a church full of sinners. That is why Jesus walked to the cross and died on it. So our sins could be forgiven.
 
 
Questions To Consider:
– Have you ever worshipped an idol? We can idolize money, comfort, achievement, recognition, self-importance, affluence, sports, leisure activities, security…. many things are idols. Is there anyone who has not bowed down to one of these things at least once?
 
– Have you ever spoken God’s name casually, flippantly, disrespectfully, or without the reverence He deserves? As one church member put it – Have you ever had to buy Pastor Paul a “Caribou Card?”
 
– Have you ever failed to set aside appropriate time to worship, to rest, and to give God the time He deserves from us? Have you skipped Sunday morning to sleep in, watch a sporting event, or even go shopping?
 
– Have you ever stretched the truth? Lead someone to believe something and not correct them?
 
– Have you ever let your eyes wander? Maybe you haven’t committed adultery, but have you ever thought about it?
 
Prayer for the day:
Gracious and loving God, you know exactly how sin affects us. Jesus taught how sin saturates every aspect of our behavior. Your teaching convicts us and reminds us we need You to forgive us when we fall short. When we approach You it changes the basis of our plea for forgiveness. We come to You today like King David did and we seek true repentance. Repentance that means more than we are sorry.  We want to make an intentional effort to turn away from our sins. Help us this Lenten season to carry our cross and follow you. Help us to make decisions to turn toward you and away from sin. In Jesus name, Amen.
 
In Christ’s love and service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn


The Great Adventure – Leaving the City

SILENCE / STILLNESS – (take 2 to 3 Minutes to listen to the Holy Spirit)

 
SCRIPTURE READING:
 

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”

 
DEVOTIONAL REFLECTION:
 

Prayer is one of the most powerful and fundamental aspects of the Christian life. We cannot expect to grow as a believer without time in prayer. Prayer will free you from bondage. It will strengthen, guide and protect you. Prayer is our spiritual life line. It is powerful because it is our direct access to communicate with God and receive his power. Prayer is less of turning to God to get something and more of turning to God to simply be with Him.

Daily time with God through prayer helps us to experience the miracles Jesus is talking about to His disciples as they leave the city. This is not a new concept. King David practiced spending time with God seven times a day (Psalm 119:64). The prophet Daniel communicated with God three times a day (Daniel 6:10). Jesus’ disciples practiced daily times of prayer at certain hours of the day as well (Acts 3:1; 10:2-23). A monk named Benedict in 525 AD created a formal structure called “offices” around these prayer times to encourage others to spend more time with God. At CROSSROADS we encourage others to consider following this similar pattern of communication with God.
 
  1. Silence and Solitude
  2. Scripture Reading
  3. Devotional Reflections
  4. Questions To Consider
  5. Prayer
As you take the time each week to read your weekly CROSSROADS devotions, I would encourage you to start with silence. Then read the Scripture and devotions for a time of reflection. Following the reading time, questions are another way to think of how to apply what God may be saying to you. Last we encourage people to pray. Through prayer we tap into the  power of God. May you be blessed this week as you listen and connect with God. May your daily time with God strengthen and encourage you to have God-like faith.
 
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER :
 

Which of the five “offices” of prayer are the easiest for you and which are the hardest? Why?

 

How is Scripture related to prayer? How often do you read Scripture? What misconceptions do you have about prayer that need to change in order to have a better prayer life?

 
PRAYER:
 
(Please pray the following or say a prayer of your own)
 

Holy and loving God, it is so easy for me to go through my day without thinking or remembering You. Help me to carve out time to spend time with you each day. Shape me into the person You call me to be as I study Your Word and spend time in prayer. In Jesus’ name. Amen.



The Great Adventure – Hypocrite’s Heart

“Jesus replied, ‘You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”’” Mark‬ ‭7:6‬ ‭NLT‬‬
 

Have you encountered a “hypocrite?” They say one thing but do something else? I confess I am a hypocrite. I say I want to be healthy and then eat a Krispy Kream donut (when my wife’s not looking). I say I love Jesus, but then don’t live a life of love that honors Him. I can come to CROSSROADS and sing songs but truly not worship God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I am a hypocrite and working on my weaknesses. The good news is I have people all around me keeping me accountable for my imperfections.

 

Following God is a choice that requires us to pursue Him daily. When the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven becomes a genuine reality for us, we stop faking it through religious obligation. Then we begin to passionately follow Jesus. Just imagine stepping into this Great Adventure to live an authentic life. A life that moves us beyond hypocrisy.   Recall the time you first encountered and experienced the love of Christ. How did that experience shape you? Faking it isn’t usually intentional. Sometimes we lose the joy of our salvation. We forget how much we love God because religion or the other Christians have pushed us away from God. Maybe that’s where you find yourself as you read these words. If you’re in that place, take some time in prayer to simply ask the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit how the joy of your salvation can be restored in your life. Ask God to move you from being fake to being full of His love. Don’t walk around with a hypocrites heart, but a heart of passion for Jesus.

 

In Christ’s Love and Service, Pastor Paul Marzahn

Questions To Consider:
  1. Have you encountered a “hypocrite?” How did you know they were fake?
  1. Recall the time you first encountered and experienced the love of Christ. How did that experience shape you? How can you rediscover that feeling?
  1. In what areas of your life are you a hypocrite? Where is God convicting you to make changes?


The Great Adventure – Dinner With A Sinner

“While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Mark 2:15-16
 
Jesus was so obviously offensive and morally incorrect the Pharisees and scribes didn’t even have to give a reason for their displeasure. All they had to do was state the obvious fact Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners, and the guilt was plain to everyone. In other words, separatism and ritual purity took precedence over winning someone back to God’s law through restoration. Jesus was unclean and lawless as far as the Pharisees were concerned. Jesus must join the sinners in their meals because He is like them. No righteous person would do such things.
 
It’s one thing to minister to the outcasts and sinners in public preaching; it’s quite another to go to their parties. Jesus did both. It made everyone in the religious power structure uneasy, anxious, and even belligerent. But Jesus came to Earth on a mission. A little disapproval from some religious snobs didn’t slow Him down. Jesus’ purpose was not to cause controversy but to share salvation and fellowship with His new disciple and His friends. To this day, the best way for people to come to Christ is through being introduced to Him by a Christian friend, a person they trust and have seen demonstrate Christ’s love. True friendship leads others to understanding the love of God. Levi invited his friends over to experience Jesus because he wanted them feel the forgiveness and acceptance he felt. May you experience God’s love so powerfully you share it with others. May God’s love in you be so great you continue to have dinner with sinners.
 
In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn



The Great Adventure – Kiss In The Garden

“While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, suddenly arrived. A large mob with swords and clubs was with him from the chief priests and elders of the people. His betrayer had given them a sign: “The one I kiss, he’s the one; arrest him.” So immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. “Friend,” Jesus asked him, “why have you come?” Then they came up, took hold of Jesus, and arrested him.” – ‭Matthew‬ ‭26:47-50‬
 
There is no hurt like the betrayal of a friend, especially someone you love or completely trust. I have seen the devastation of an unfaithful spouse in my counseling ministry. I have witnessed good friends cheat or steal from each other. I have personally felt the pain of being stabbed in the back by someone I thought was a trusted friend. You probably have also. It is one thing to be deceived by an enemy; it is another thing to be disappointed by a friend. You can handle rejection from someone who hates you, but to be betrayed by someone who you thought loved you is totally different. Broken trust can destroy your ability to trust other people, and can hinder your willingness to allow yourself to engage in another close personal relationship. There is simply no greater human heartache in life than when someone you love, trust, and have opened yourself up to sucks the air right out of you.
 
In these situations, the worst thing you can do is harbor your hurt, because harbored hurt becomes bitterness. Don’t ever think you have no one to talk to, because you can always talk to God. You can think nobody will understand, but God always understands. God is always available, and He completely understands. His shoulders are big enough to carry our hurts. I want to remind you God understands betrayal, because it happened to Him twice in two different gardens. In the Garden of Eden, the dew was still wet on the grass of creation when the first two people He created betrayed Him. Then, in the Garden of Gethsemane, the grass was wet from the blood-drops of sweat from the brow of the Son of God and one of His best friends betrayed Him. Both of those betrayals happened to Jesus. The Good News is Jesus can take any betrayal and turn it into a blessing. His betrayal from Judas led to death and resurrection. His betrayal from the first two people demonstrated the power of His forgiveness and reconciliation. May we learn from Jesus how to move past bitterness to healing. May we learn from Jesus how to turn betrayal into blessing.
 

Questions To Consider:

  1. Have you been betrayed by a trusted friend? If so, are you harboring hurt or have you turned it over to Jesus?
  2. How can you heal after a betrayal?
  3. In what ways can you turn a betrayal into a blessing?
 
In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn