Weekly Devotion
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Better Together | Through Honesty

I continue to reflect on how we are BETTER TOGETHER and this week we are looking at the importance of HONESTY. God craves men and women of integrity and honesty. In our relationships with one another, honesty is a key building block. King David was raising money for the new temple and he shared how giving to God is a test of integrity and honesty. He states in 1 Chronicles 29:17 – “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you.”
 
The Apostle Paul also teaches about honesty to the early church. He reminds them we are to be “sincere” to God and one another.  I love the Pastor’s heart shared by Paul to his church family.  He doesn’t preach at them and say, “you need to do the following.” Instead he includes himself as one who is still on the faith journey with them. He says we and the term “Let Us.”  (Let us draw near to God. Let us hold on to hope. Let us spur on one another. Let us not give up meeting together. Let us encourage one another.) Paul states in Hebrews 10:22-25 – “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
 
David and Paul are both great leaders and both focus on the importance of faithfulness and integrity. Both made huge mistakes and yet confessed their sinfulness. They were honest with God and those around them. Both overcame their sins to be used by God in powerful ways. Let us follow David and Paul and grow in our honesty. Let us continue to hold on to the hope we have received in Christ Jesus.
 
Questions to Consider:
1. How would you define honesty? 
2. When is a time recently when someone was dishonest with you? How were you able to resolve it?
3. How does honesty strengthen our relationships? When is a time when you were honest lately? 
 

In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn



Better Together | Through Growing

There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.”
Hebrews 5:11-14 NLT
 
No one likes being treated like a baby. Often, babies don’t like being treated like babies. I remember how keen my daughters were to get on to solid foods after living for the first six months on milk. But when they were in their infancy, they weren’t ready for more. I can’t imagine them still drinking from a bottle in their twenties. Would definitely look humorous.
 
The Apostle Paul is talking about recognizing where you are at, but he’s not advocating staying on milk. He reminds us we need to grow up. He makes it abundantly clear, laziness stunts growth and arrests development. We may enjoy milk, but Paul challenges us to look at where we need to move to “solid food.” Maybe we are mature when it comes to worship, but we are still immature when it comes to financial giving or tithing. Maybe we are mature by being a part of a small group, but we need to grow in our daily reading of Scripture. Each of us has areas we need to grow and deepen our faith. May God help us as we evaluate our spiritual growth. May we all be challenged to move from “milk” to “steak” so we can grow as fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
 
 
In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn


Better Together | Through Example

“In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned.”
‭‭Titus ‭2:7-8 ‭NIV‬‬
 
Deb and I have been blessed by having our grandson Bellamy James living with us over the past year. He and his parents will be moving out in November into their own home. We will miss them. It has been a joy having them around. At 5 years of age, Bellamy has changed the dynamics of our home with his indoor soccer practice and daily creative play.
 
At supper time when we eat together, we share highs and lows of our day. We also share one thing we learned. We go around the table and each take our turns. I shared how much I enjoyed preaching with his grandma (Pastor Deb) on Sunday. As a low I shared how I cut my fingers with a chainsaw while trimming trees. I told everyone my learning for the day was copyright law on photographs taken from the internet. Bellamy was moving around a lot at supper but eventually shared with me about school stuff going on for highs and lows. But the thing he learned struck me right between the eyes. Bellamy learned that “if you have a phone you look at you don’t have to listen to people.” Wow! I wonder where he picked up that tidbit of information? Watching me? Watching other adults?
 

Setting an example is never easy. We have to be aware that others are watching us. People observe more of what we do than what we say. In the book of Titus, the leaders are being told to set an EXAMPLE by doing good. If we are to share our faith it starts through our actions. May our lives be good examples of how to live as Christ would have us live. May we share God’s love this week wherever we go to demonstrate His love in our lives.

 

In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn


Better Together | Through Honor

“Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance.”
‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:12‬ ‭NLT‬‬
 
I’ve got to be honest, I’ve never preached from this passage before. But because CROSSROADS is walking through the One Year Bible readings I am challenged to preach on new passages. This passage reminds the church to “HONOR” those in leadership. In another part of Scripture, Paul states to show “Double Honor.”
 
“The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.”
‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭5:17‬ ‭NIV‬‬
 
Many congregations have seen spiritual pain, hurt and wounds. Pastors and family are often caught in the middle of the “hand-to-hand” combat. They are unable to leave the field of battle, for it follows them everywhere. Families have broken up over doctrines. Friendships have ended because of disagreements in the church. Many clergy have seen ugly scenes of hostility and animosity. Pastors are always attempting to comfort, soothe, encourage, uplift, direct and gently admonish. Ministry is difficult work. When ministers are respected and appreciated for their hard work it can make a big difference.
 
A mentor of mine explained to me that caring for a pastor (and the pastor’s family) is like caring for the church. When we as leaders are healthy and supported, we can care for the needs of the church more fully. He also told me we model respect to our youth and children when we show honor to those in authority. Oxford dictionary defines honor as showing high respect; or demonstrating great esteem. This October is Ministry Appreciation month so take time to honor those who serve in ministry.
 

In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn

 

Actions To Consider:
Here is a modified list of ways to honor a pastor that was shared by LifeWay Resources.

1. Pray for your pastors every day for a week and send a note of encouragement to one of them.

2. Support your church financially and generously.

3. Find out the name of a lost person your pastor is praying for and covenant to also pray for this person.

4. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s fullness to be evident in the Sunday services. Come early to worship and pray with others for the service.

5. On Sundays in October, ask him what you can pray about for him this week. Then the next Sunday ask him how things went regarding what you prayed for.

6. Encourage your friends to join you in sitting closer to the front during October’s Sunday services.

7. Defend him or her against critics. Every pastor is imperfect and has some people whose expectations are not met by his ministry.

8. Take notes on your pastor’s preaching and teaching. Such a practice is spiritually healthy and demonstrates that you value what he says.

9. Listen and have an open heart to his/her ideas for change. Oftentimes, the value of that change may take months or years to be fully appreciated.

10. Tag your pastor in a social media post with the hashtag #pastorappreciation and tell your friends, family and fellow church members what you appreciate about your pastor.



Better Together | Through Prayer

“So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.”
2 Thessalonians 1:11
 
Imagine for a moment that you are Jesus during His earthly ministry. You have been given the most important assignment that anyone will ever be given. What would you do and where would you spend most of your time? Most of us would probably jump immediately to teaching in the synagogues, performing miracles, and perhaps even telling the world that we were the Son of God. But not Jesus. While Jesus did perform miracles and teach in the synagogues, the majority of His time was spent with twelve close friends – His disciples. Even Jesus did not attempt to live the Christian life alone. He knew His work would be endlessly demanding, frustrating, and tiring. Jesus knew He would want time away from the crowds to pray and draw close to the Father. He also taught his disciples the importance of prayer and fasting. Jesus chose close friends to ministry alongside. He didn’t want to face the hardships or experience the joy alone. He wanted friends. He wanted community. I also believe, Jesus wanted to set an example for us to not do life alone.
 
The way that Jesus chose to live His life on earth is a model for all Christians who have come after Him. As fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ, we need real fellowship with other believers. We need the kind of fellowship that cannot take place in a worship service on Sunday morning, but rather the kind that happens by living life alongside one another and sharing joys and burdens. That is why finding a meaningful small group is so important. We need to pray for one another and remember we are better together.
 

In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn

 

Questions to consider:
1. Some people enjoy praying with other Christians, while others find it intimidating. What’s your initial reaction to the idea of praying with others? Why do you think you feel that way?

2. When is the last time you prayed out loud for another person? When is the last time you prayed out loud?

3. Have you ever asked anyone else to pray for you? Why or why not? If they did what did that feel like?



Better Together | Through Encouragement

“Therefore if you have any ENCOURAGEMENT from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.”
Philippians ‭2:1-2 ‭NIV‬‬
 
We live in a challenging perfectionist society where we are in a quest for “zero defect.” We call it the “Rat Race”. We are surrounded by an overwhelming number of fake and often unrealistic finish lines: If our body looks a certain way, if we drive a certain car, if we live at a particular address or socialize with these exclusive people, then we have won the race. Because of these unrealistic expectations, it is not unusual for people to feel irrelevant, overwhelmed, discouraged and depressed. But when challenges and setbacks come into our lives, we can be encouragers. Paul encouraged his churches and shared a message of encouragement particularly to the people of Phillipi. If we want to be like the Apostle Paul, here are a few modern phrases of encouragement we can offer:
 
“You’re doing a great job even though you think no one notices.”
“Don’t worry, you may have missed it this time, but you can try again.”
“I really believe you can do it – even if you don’t believe in yourself.”
“Great Job! Thanks for the hard work!”
“I know it’s a big challenge, but I’m praying for you.”
“You’re not alone – I’ll be here for you!”
“I will always love you! It doesn’t matter if you try and fail.”
 
You can probably think of more encouraging phrases. Feel free to share some with me 🙂 The secret is to find ways to encourage our loved ones with notes, calls, cards, verses, emails, snap chats or instant messages. Give someone this week a pat on the back, a word of recognition, prayer support or a look that says, “I believe in you!” In a society where people are quick to criticize and condemn, let’s let our mouths speak differently. May we this week share encouragement with others. May we be a people of a God that reminds the world that we are “better together.”
 
In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul
 
 

Questions To Consider:
1.What is one negative thing someone said or did to me this week. Why did it discourage me?

2.When is a time recently that someone encouraged you? How did that change your day?

3.When is a time recently you encouraged someone else? What did you say or do?

4.Name three people you should encourage this week in your life.



Game Changers | Fourth & Long

All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.
‭‭Galatians ‭2:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

In high school and junior high, I played football. In the glory days of youth there are many memories of sports moments that were “game changers.” One play could change the entire outcome of the game. I recall one game where we were behind and the coach called in an unusual play. It is called a “flea-flicker” pass. It was fourth down and long yards to get a first down. I threw the ball to my wide receiver and friend of mine named Tim. He pretended to run with it but instead stopped and then proceeded to stand still as everyone ran towards him. Meanwhile since the defense is focused on the wide receiver, I can sneak down field undetected. I ran as fast as I could and deep down the field as I could run. My friend Tim, at the last minute, planted his feet and threw the ball as far down the field as he could possibly throw. Somehow, in this crazy play, I was able to catch the ball and waltz into the end zone unscathed. The play was a “Game Changer”, as we went ahead in the score with only seconds left on the clock. We took a calculated risk but the payoff changed the game.

Caring for the poor is a game changer. It changes us from the inside out. It also changes those we share our resources with. It is a sacrifice of time and money to do local outreach like CROSSROADS. We make sandwiches for the homeless, and also bring food to schools through The Sheridan Story ministry to help kids who suffer from food scarcity. This last Saturday, I was at the Grocery Giveaway at CROSSROADS of Inver Grove Heights. I prayed with a woman who was struggling with medical bills. She was grateful for the food because her husband had his legs amputated recently and could not support the family any more. She shared with me that the groceries she took every month have helped her and her children tremendously. Our church has been a game changer in her life. The Apostle Paul challenges the Galatians to be “game changers” by remembering the poor and helping them. Paul himself collected many offerings to help widows and orphans who were struggling. It is a reminder for us to care for the least, the lost and the left behind. May we be game changers this week as we remember the poor. May we continue at CROSSROADS to reach out to the least, the lost and left behind.

In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul



Game Changers | Free Agent Pickup

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.
 
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭1:5‬ ‭NLT‬‬
In a sport franchise athletes were once on a team for life. They signed up with a city or a state team and played their entire career with that team.  A franchise player was one who dedicated their career to a single team.  Later in the sport’s world, players began shopping around for better opportunities and coaches began looking at ways to increase their talent pool. The name “free agent” became the term used because they were not committed to one team. A team or franchise picked up a free agent and blended them into their team. In essence, they adopted them into their sports family even though they started in another sports family.
 
God loves us so much and wants us to be a part of His family. Paul uses the term adoption because we are not biological children of God but born of the Spirit of God. Paul reminds us it gives God great pleasure to be one of His children. And just like biological children we will receive an inheritance from our Heavenly Father.  God chooses us as free agents to join His team (family) but he doesn’t force us. He simply offers the invitation. May we all recognize this day that we are children of God. May we all receive our Kingdom inheritance and share the inheritance with others.
 

Questions To Consider:

  1. When you hear the phrase “child of God” what does that mean to you?
  2. What is your definition of adoption? How does one incorporate a non-biological son or daughter into the family?
  3. What is our inheritance as children of God?


Game Changers | #1 Draft Pick

All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.  ‭‭ Galatians‬ ‭2:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬
 
According to bleacherreport.com the draft crests the biggest game changers in the NFL.
 
“The 2019 NFL draft is loaded with game-changer prospects, much like last year’s class was. A year ago, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield stumped defenses with his mobility and arm once he made his NFL debut. Quarterback Lamar Jackson lifted the Baltimore Ravens to the playoffs with his rushing acumen. New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley caused defenders to miss as often as he bulldozed over them. Shockingly, explosive pass-rushers should keep even calm-and-collected veterans like Tom Brady up at night before games. The natural blend of talent, athleticism and upside make the prospects the biggest game-changing players of this year’s draft class.”
 
Number one draft picks are the best of the best. They make all the difference in the game. Football is still a team sport but a high-performing athlete can make the difference between winning and losing. In the Christian movement, the Apostle Paul was a “game changer.” Paul began reaching out to communities outside the region of Jerusalem. He also focused on reaching gentiles instead of just Jews. Paul also helped plant churches and raise up new pastoral leadership. Paul’s letters were game changing because they inspired leaders but also instructed them on the basic doctrines of the faith.  Jesus was THE game changer but Paul was key to spreading the good news of the kingdom throughout the world.
 
We need to remember that we are called to be game changers as well. We are called to change the lives of our families by strengthening one another in faith. We are called to witness to our friends for Jesus. As a church, we are also called to change the lives of our community by reaching out to the poor. May we all see ourselves as number one draft picks chosen by God to change the world.
 
In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul


UNPLUGGED

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭10:3-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬
 
The testimonies in our UNPLUGGED worship series have been powerful. Lives are being transformed at CROSSROADS and God is answering prayers. As part of this series, we have been discussing the struggles we all face in life. A constant battle rages between the flesh and the spirit. Our spirit desires to commune with God; to pray, praise and worship, but our desires and appetites are constantly bombarded by images on TV, movies, and social media. We are so plugged into worldly activities, we become unplugged from God. We have information coming at us from every side and we seldom prioritize time to do things that feed our spirit. We often use our time for work or entertainment rather than for spiritual food which comes through worship, prayer, praise, reading Scripture, or serving others. One child was making sandwiches on Sunday after worship and she was precious. She said: “I am so glad we came to church today so we could make sandwiches to help hungry people instead of going to the fair.” (The State Fair is not evil and we went last Sunday after worship. But this young person probably heard a discussion at home of “should we skip worship today and go to the fair instead?”) The parents instilled an amazing value in this child. Worship and serving are more important than entertainment.
 
The enemy of our souls knows that he cannot touch our spirit because the Holy Spirit lives there. Instead, he tries to appeal to our natural senses. He draws us by making things look, sound, feel, taste, and smell nice so we can be drawn away from the reality of what is important, and that is our relationship with God and God’s people. Often we don’t recognize that the battle is won or lost in our day to day decisions. Long before we stop attending worship, or fall away from a Christian community, we make decisions that isolate us. If you have been away from worship for a while, I would encourage you to reconnect. Fill your heart with the presence of God to help you in your everyday struggles of life. Fuel yourself with the truth of Scripture to help you in times of trouble. I want to encourage you to take time every day to feed your spirit in God’s Word. I hope to see you this Sunday at CROSSROADS.
 
In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul