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



The Great Adventure – Truth In The Temple

‘But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”’ – Matthew‬ ‭22:34-40‬ ‭NLT‬‬
 
 
The religious leaders were frustrated with Jesus and were doing their best to trap Him in public by cornering him with difficult questions. There was much debate during this time period about which laws to follow within the Torah since there were so many. All were important, so Jesus was asked a difficult question to resolve. Jesus knew all Jewish families spent time reciting the “Shema” prayer known as “Hear O Israel.” This passage from Deuteronomy was similar to Christians sharing the Lord’s prayer. The main obligation was to read the Shema twice, once in the morning and once at night. The verse itself requires faithful believers to recite it “when you lie down, and when you get up.” Many religious Jews even said the Shema a few more times each day. There is the custom by many Jews to say the Shema one more time before falling asleep.
 

The Shema is a beautiful prayer. There’s a reason why God’s people have been praying these words for millennia. They are simple words with the capacity to reshape the course of an entire life. The Shema can keep God’s love and loyalty in the forefront of your mind and drive you towards obedience, not out of obligation or duty, but out of love. The words of Jesus in the Gospel of John are obviously derived from the Shema: “The one who has my commands and keeps them, that’s the one who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and I will reveal myself to him.” (John 14:21)

At the end of the day, following Jesus is all about love. Love that came to us when we weren’t looking for it. As we receive this love, God’s love generates gratefulness, humility, and a commitment to love in return. Love gives birth to more love, which, in turn, results in faithfulness and obedience. These are truths than can transform us from the inside out. Can you imagine a better way to never forget, than memorizing and praying the Shema daily? Share this with your family and remind them of the importance of love as a believer. Maybe this week you could memorize and recite the Shema as part of your weekly devotional life. May the love of Jesus permeate all your relationships as you share His love with others.
 
In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn



The Great Adventure – Here On Earth

“I also tell you this: If two of you agree HERE ON EARTH concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭18:19-20‬ ‭NLT‬‬
 
I am a little nostalgic today. 29 years ago today Deb and I had our first child, Rebekah Ann. She was born in the midst of a January snowstorm. It was an amazing day filled with fear, awe, and wonder (Deb might have a few other choice expressions as well from her experience). One of my favorite lines during Deb’s labor was – “Put down that peanut butter sandwich and help me like we practiced.” Later in the evening Rebekah arrived.
 
I grew up saying the Lord’s Prayer. The phrase “On Earth as it is in Heaven” was always alluding to me. What did it mean to experience “Heaven on Earth?” The day I held my precious daughter Bekah it became very real. A part of Heaven had come to Earth and I was holding it. It was a “Here On Earth” moment for me I will never forget. May you have moments where you experience Heaven here on Earth. May you find yourself in agreement with two or three others gathered in His name. May you experience the blessing of God’s presence in tangible ways this week.
 
In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn



The Great Adventure – Treasure In The Field

“‘The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field. ‘Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!’”
 – Matthew‬ ‭13:44-46‬ ‭NLT‬‬
 
Jesus in His Great Adventure has been traveling around Galilee healing and teaching. In this week’s scripture readings He shares several parables or metaphors about the Kingdom of Heaven. If you are not familiar with parables, they are described by Wikipedia as, “a succinct, didactic story, in prose or verse that illustrates one or more instructive lessons or principles. It differs from a fable. A parable is a type of analogy.”
 
Jesus refers to the Kingdom of Heaven as, “forcefully advancing, revealed to those with childlike faith, and a life that produces good fruit.” He tells about the Kingdom of Heaven being like a farmer planting seeds and how only the seeds that fell on good soil produced a crop. He goes on to say the Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed, like the yeast a woman uses in making bread, treasure in a field, or finding a pearl of great price.  
 
All of His stories point to the central truth about the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom is where God reigns and those who find it, or enter into it, will receive a great reward. The true Gospel is the message of good news about the coming Kingdom of God. It is a message of hope for the entire world, but also for us personally. It is the message God is building a community that will soon rule the entire earth, bringing peace and happiness. When we understand the thrust of Christ’s message is centered on the Kingdom of Heaven/God, we understand better why He made the statement in Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the kingdom of God.” He tells us to seek first the Kingdom because the Kingdom of Heaven was His primary message.
 
Questions To Consider:
Why do you think Jesus used parables in describing the Kingdom of Heaven?
 
When you think about the Kingdom of Heaven what does it look like to you? What metaphor or parable speaks to your experience?
 
How have you shared about the Kingdom of Heaven to others? Family? Friends?
 
In Christ’s love and service,
 

Pastor Paul Marzahn



The Great Adventure – Miracles On The Road

“Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness.” – Matthew‬ ‭9:35‬ ‭NLT‬‬
 

We are into our first week of the GREAT ADVENTURE of reading through the New Testament. It has been an awesome first week. People have been watching online and commenting as I have been reading on the CROSSROADS Facebook page each day. Others have downloaded the podcast and been listening online. Almost everyone in church has been doing the 3 minute or less daily readings. We sold or gave away over 150 New Testament One Year Bibles. Already I am hearing testimonies of how reading God’s Word regularly is changing lives. Keep up the great work CROSSROADS!

 

In this week’s GREAT ADVENTURE, Jesus is on the road traveling throughout the region. Like Matthew 4:23, today’s passage reminds us of the threefold ministry of Jesus. He taught in the synagogues, preached about the Good News of the Kingdom, and He healed people. His healing ministry made a profound impact on the crowds as we learned in this week’s readings. It records He healed the blind, those with leprosy, and even raised a young girl from the dead.

God still performs miracles. God still heals people. As I write this article I am at home with a cold. I am praying for healing. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired! As a Jesus follower, I am quite aware sickness, disease, pain, and death are still realities in this world. Unless Jesus returns, everyone who is alive today will die, and the vast majority of them will die as the result of a physical problem (disease, sickness, injury). It is not always God’s will to heal us physically. Ultimately, our full physical healing awaits us in heaven. In heaven, there will be no more pain, sickness, disease, suffering, or death (Revelation 21). May we all experience God’s spiritual healing and if needed His physical healing here on earth. May God bless you this week as you continue toward God’s GREAT ADVENTURE!
 
In Christ’s love and service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn

 

This week’s readings:

January 7- Matthew 6:1-24

January 8 – Matthew 6:25-7:14

January 9 – Matthew 7:15-29

January 10 – Matthew 8:1-17

January 11 – Matthew 8:18-34

January 12 – Matthew 9:1-17

January 13 – Matthew 9:18-38



The Great Adventure

Greetings from Mission Mexico!

 

As I write this we are completing our final day in Rio Bravo Ministries in Reynosa, Mexico. Thanks for all the prayers and financial support from CROSSROADS. We have been making a huge impact due to our teamwork. Together we helped furnish and construct a new church sanctuary. Together we helped paint and remodel an orphanage children’s home. Together we helped redo the plumbing so kids can now brush their teeth, flush toilets, and wash clothes. You are making a huge difference!

 

This week’s message will focus on the first five chapters of Matthew and in particular the preaching of Jesus called the “Sermon On The Mount.”  In this message, Jesus lays out what it means to participate in the “Kingdom of Heaven.” He also lays out barriers that keep us from experiencing Kingdom life. Early in my faith walk I believed the Kingdom was something believers experienced when they died. If we had a personal relationship with God, we would be rewarded by having eternal life in Heaven. As I grew in my faith I began to understand as believers we could experience the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth as well. I realized Jesus preached we are to experience the Kingdom here and now, as well as in its fullness in Heaven. This Sunday we will discuss how to access the blessings of being a part of God’s Kingdom.

 
This year we are going through the Great Adventure as each CROSSROADS family member will be challenged to read through the entire New Testament. This first week we are encouraging everyone to read Matthew 1:1 – Matthew 6:24.
 
Jan 1 – Matthew 1:1 – 2:12
Jan 2 – Matthew 2:13 – 3:6
Jan 3 – Matthew 3:7 – 4:11
Jan 4 – Matthew 4:12 – 25
Jan 5 – Matthew 5:1 – 26
Jan 6 – Matthew 5:27 – 48
Jan 7 – Matthew 6:1 – 24
 

Happy New Year!

 
In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn



All I Want For Christmas – Back to Normal Life

“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” – ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭2:11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

 

Well, it is all over: the Christmas rush. The gatherings. The food. The shopping. The parties. The exchanges. The blur of the Christmas season. Now it is the tough part of clean up. Exchanging gifts. Watching kids or grandkids home from school. Emotional joys and concerns as life returns to a more normal routine.

 

Mary and Joseph had their baby. They completed the census. The had their party with the shepherds (and probably other relatives who were their for the census). They were getting back to this new normal then the Magi show up. Wise men from the east show up just when they were getting a baby routine going. After the bustle quieted down they were reminded this was not only a miraculous birth but a miraculous child. The Magi bring gifts and worship the Christ child who was born as prophets foretold.  

 

Sometimes after the bustle of Christmas we have to be reminded of the significance of the event. I always am less concerned with Easter Sunday worship attendance or Christmas Eve worship attendance. The believers who come the weeks following are ones who come to worship after the fanfare has gone. The ones who live out the love of the Jesus story are the believers who continue to worship him.

 

“When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone, when the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with their flocks, the work of Christmas begins: to find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner, to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among the people, to make music in the heart.” – Howard Thurman

May the Christmas story continue to live in your heart all year long.
 
In Christ’s love and service,
 

Pastor Paul Marzahn



All I Want For Christmas – Unexpected Love

Luke 2:10 – “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you the most unexpected news ever announced and it is for everyone.”
 
I’ll never forget the first time a sweet little lady came to my door to wish me a happy birthday. It was 1990 and I had just started in Rosemount as full-time ordained clergy. Not only had she remembered my birthday, but she brought me a gift of homemade bread to celebrate. I pulled the bread out of the ziplock bag and it was no ordinary bread. It was in the shape of a bear with eyes, ears, and even a belly button. It looked almost too good to eat. It was a tremendous unexpected gift of love.
 
 
Pastor Charlie, my Senior Pastor and friend, walked by my desk later that day. “Oh, I see you got a loaf of ‘Bonnie’s Bear Bread’. It is the best bread because it is baked with love.” Charlie was right. It was some of the best bread I had ever eaten. My daughter Bekah liked it because the little paws of the body were just the right size for her to eat.
 
 
Later on that summer, this same bread woman offered to babysit our children for FREE. As  young parents with a one year old and a three year old it was a blessing to even get out to McDonalds once a week. That was a big adventure to pack up the kids and enjoy happy meals with Ronald in the playland (back in the day when they still had the ball pits). Now this new friend in our lives gave us a gift certificate for real food, at a real restaurant without the kids.  Talk about unexpected love. We were overwhelmed. Deb’s response was: “Can we leave right now or do we have to schedule a special time?”
 
 
Maybe you know a Christian servant like Bonnie. Bonnie is a person filled with God’s love. She loves Jesus so much she shares His love in tangible ways everywhere she goes. She doesn’t need to sign up for a church outreach event. She is an outreach team on her own.
 
 
Have you ever received a gift of unexpected love? Have you ever shared an act of unexpected love with someone else? Today’s Scripture reminds us Jesus came as a form of God’s love on earth. The shepherds and others were surprised by the coming of the Messiah in such a manner. Jesus reminded them and us the heart of God is filled with love. At a time when the people thought the Messiah would come in the form of a powerful soldier, He came instead as the Prince of Peace. When they thought Christ should be an anointed king, He revealed Himself as a humble servant. Jesus shared unexpected love instead of expected rules which helped people to remember the God of Abraham, Moses, and David as a loving God.    
 
 
I don’t know why, but I am always amazed by God’s love and grace. I don’t deserve it and yet God gives it freely. I mess up time and time again and yet God forgives me. I am blessed to come to church every week and receive a healthy dose of God’s love through worship and the community of Christ. I am so frequently blessed by doses of God’s unexpected love. By the way, Bonnie stopped in again yesterday on my birthday. Every year it still seems to hit me as unexpected surprise when Bonnie shows up with her bear bread on my birthday. Instead of Bekah it is now my grandson who likes to eat the bear’s little paws.
 
 
 
In Christ’s love and service,
 
 
Pastor Paul Marzahn


All I Want For Christmas – Joy

“As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” L‭uke‬ ‭1:44-45‬ ‭NIV‬‬
 

Elizabeth had been basking in the miracle of a surprise pregnancy for about six months when Mary arrived at her house. Mary had hurried to visit her older relative Elizabeth, as she processed all that was happening in her world. When Mary entered the home of Zacharias and Elizabeth, the baby boy within the womb of Elizabeth jumped for JOY! The instant John, although unborn, sensed that he was in the presence of Jesus the Messiah, he leaped for JOY!

John, still in his mother’s womb and unable to see Jesus with his natural eyes, knew he was in the presence of the Lord. There was only one possible response to the presence of the Lord, and that was JOY! Elizabeth expressed to Mary this was no soft little nudging she felt from the baby within – it was a gargantuan leap! John was exploding with JOY at being in the presence of Jesus! The spirit of John was responding to the Spirit of Jesus Christ where there is always fullness of JOY.

When Jesus walks into our world, homes, and lives we also experience JOY. Our heart should begin to jump just like John’s. Having our children home for Christmas, receiving mountains of gifts, decorating the house, or eating fancy culinary concoctions…these things add to our JOY. Yet they can’t substitute for the JOY we receive from a relationship with Jesus. This Christmas make room for His presence. May we spend time worshiping Him at church with friends and family and experience the JOY of the season.

 

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn