Weekly Devotion
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

BUILT TO LAST | Excellence

Excellence
 
“People were overwhelmed with amazement. ‘He [Jesus] has done everything well.’” Mark 7:37
 
I love this description of Jesus that comes from Mark. It describes Jesus as doing his ministry with excellence. As followers of Christ, this passage should give us great pause. As those seeking to imitate Jesus in every way imaginable, can we say we are doing everything well? Can we say we are doing everything with excellence at work and at home? The fact is that all of us have areas of our lives where we are falling short of Jesus’ excellent standard. I think this is truer today than ever before. Why? 
 
Many of us are overcommitted, overwhelmed, and overstressed, making a millimeter of progress in a million directions because we fail to discern the essential from the nonessential in our work and in our homes. This is a recipe for mediocrity, not excellence, and I would argue the problem is epidemic in the Church today.  Why should we care? Because anything less than excellence falls short of the standard we Christians have been called to. In 1 Corinthians 10:31, Paul writes, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” The late great pastor Dr. James Kennedy used to paraphrase this passage, calling his congregation to “excellence in all things and all things to God’s glory.”  I believe that is the standard we are called to.
 
There are many good reasons to pursue excellence in all things, especially in our chosen work. Excellence in our vocations advances our careers, makes us winsome to the world, grants us influence, and can lead to opportunities to share the gospel. But none of these good things should be the primary motivators for us as we pursue excellence in our work and the other roles God has called us to fulfill in our lives. We pursue excellence for a much more fundamental purpose. We as believers of Jesus should see how excellence best reflects the character of Christ. Excellence helps us to love and serve our neighbors as ourselves. In other words, excellence is our most everyday form of ministry. May you experience excellence within the body of Christ, so you see God glorified. May you inspire others to live a life of excellence by how you live your life.
 
In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul
 

Questions to Consider

1. Why do you think God loves excellence?
2. What are some of the barriers we have in our lives to living a life of excellence?
3. How does living a life of excellence inspire others to do the same?



BUILT TO LAST | Compassion

COMPASSION

Mother Teresa, founder of the Order of the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic congregation of women dedicated to helping the poor, told this story: “One night, a man came to our house to tell me that a Hindu family, a family of eight children, had not eaten anything for days. They had nothing to eat. I took enough rice for a meal and went to their house. I could see the hungry faces, the children with their bulging eyes. The sight could not have been more dramatic! The mother took the rice from my hands, divided it in half and went out. When she came back a little later, I asked her: “Where did you go? What did you do?” She answered, “They are also hungry.” “They” were the people next door, a Muslim family with the same number of children to feed and who did not have any food either. That mother was aware of the situation. She had the courage and the love to share her meager portion of rice with others. In spite of her circumstances, I think she felt very happy to share with her neighbors the little I had taken her. In order not to take away her happiness, I did not take her any more rice that night. I took her some more the following day.”

Mother Teresa is a great example for each of us. God wants us to model Jesus’ servant heart by showing compassion to others. The cool thing is that the woman Mother Teresa helped caught the spirit of compassion and helped another. It’s like compassion is contagious!

How can we have a heart of compassion? It comes from a combination of our personal faith and putting that faith into action by serving others. As God transforms our hearts by His incredible compassion He demonstrated to us by sending His only Son Jesus to die for our sins – making a way for us to be united with Him for eternity, our hearts are so radically changed by God’s compassion so that we cannot help but show compassion to others!

Mathew 9:35-38 says, “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. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” (NLT)

We can show compassion to others this Saturday July 4th by coming to the Inver Grove Heights Campus to serve others at the Grocery Giveaway. See you all there!

– Pastor Dan Schauer

Questions to Consider:
1. How does my personal faith in Jesus affect my heart and compassion for others?
2. Has there been a time when I reluctantly went to serve someone in need but ended up having my heart changed as a result of serving?
3. What practical step(s) is God challenging me to take so that I am more compassionate toward others?



BUILT TO LAST | Interdependence

INTERDEPENDENCE

1 Corinthians 12:4-7 “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.” (NLT)

Over the past few months we’ve all given each other a pass when it comes to hairstyles. Most of us aren’t hairstylists and we either had to trust a loved one with some clippers or just see how long our hair can grow. I was one of the ones who waited it out and let my hair grow. My wife can’t stand seeing me with long hair, but she wasn’t going to help me get it cut. Thankfully now I saw my hairstylist, got myself a haircut and now my wife is finally happy again.

We’ve really realized how we can’t do things on our own. Whether it comes to getting a haircut or getting a cup of coffee in the morning. We depend so much on one another in our daily lives that you can’t simply live on your own. God created us in such a way that we have to work with one another if we want to accomplish anything. That’s why interdependence is important in ministry. 

We all bring something to ministry. We all bring gifts that have been given to us through the Holy Spirit. There isn’t one of us who isn’t important! Each one of us brings something to the table, and no one should ever feel left out. During this time, if you are struggling with where you are seeing yourself in God’s plan, then please pray and ask God where you can help. There’s a lot of need in this world, and each one of us is tasked to meet that need through the specific skills and talents provided to us by God. May we all be in prayerful reflection this week as to how we can better serve one another and bring glory to God.

Mark Schlasner

Questions to Consider

1. What’s one thing you’ve missed, like a haircut, that you couldn’t provide for yourself? How has it affected you?
2. What are some of your skills or talents that other people enjoy or depend upon?
3. How do you, personally, see interdependence in the world? How do you see it in the church?
4. How are you a part of God’s mission? If you don’t know, then what stops you from prayerfully discerning your role?



BUILT TO LAST | Small Groups

SMALL GROUPS

“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. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47 NIV)
 
On a typical week I am a part of 7-8 small groups. Some meet weekly. Some meet twice a month and some meet once a month. Some are very fellowship based and others are based on studying the weekly message topics. Some small groups are ministry minded and we plan activities around tasks to accomplish. Some of my groups are focused on outreach efforts or supporting others. One group is only 3 of us and another is 17. Some are with adults and others are with our youth at church. Each group is unique and is a blessing in my life. 
 
Why am I in so many small groups? What do I get out of them?  I guess I love small groups because I also love Jesus.  We as believers are the body of Christ.  Small groups are Jesus with skin on. Small groups are the church and not a program of the church. Small groups are where I can share my highs and lows, my hurts and dreams, my life with others who care about me. I am in a small group because I want to grow in my faith and my groups challenge me to think and pray more often. They help me discern life differently than I can do on my own. Covid 19 and recent racial inequity discussions have helped me grow as a person through small group dialogue. I have always been in a small group of Christian disciples all my life. My family small group, my Sunday school classes, my youth groups, my college groups, and now my groups at CROSSROADS. 
 
Small Groups are a Core Value at CROSSROADS because God built us to be in community.  We recognize that fact and want every fully devoted follower of Jesus to find a group where they can grow in discipleship. We want everyone to experience the love of Jesus through committed, caring believers. If you are not a part of a small group prayerfully consider finding a place where you can connect with the body of Christ. If you are in a small group, invite others to join you. Let’s continue to form relationships that are built to last.

Pastor Paul Marzahn

Questions to Consider:
 
1. In addition to temple worship, where else did Christians gather? Why do you suppose they gathered in these small groups? What do you think they gained in small groups that they could not gain in larger gatherings? 
 
2. Have you been part of a spiritual small group? Why or why not? If you have been a part of one, what did you enjoy about it?
 
3. What kind of small groups do you think we need at CROSSROADS? Would you be willing to join a small group or start one?



THE AFTERMATH | Overcoming Tragedy

Job 27:1-4 NKJV
1“Moreover Job continued his discourse, and said: 2As God lives, who has taken away my justice, And the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter, 3As long as my breath is in me, And the breath of God in my nostrils, 4My lips will not speak wickedness, Nor my tongue utter deceit.”
 
It’s interesting to see how the book of Job starts in ch.1. We read that it is God who initiates the conversation with Satan about Job. It isn’t Satan who comes to God and asks to test Job. So why would a loving God do such a thing?
 
God knows the beginning from the end and is not surprised by anyone or anything. I believe the LORD knew how Job would respond and persevere through this, so He was not worried at all about His servant Job. So, if we are going through something difficult, we trust that God knows how we will respond, and He has a plan for that. We can take comfort that the LORD is all of eternity ahead of us, not just a day or a week, but all of eternity and He is able to guide us and help us.
 
Also, God was actually trying to bless Job, not just test him. We know that in the end Job gets double back for his troubles (Job 42:10). Of course, in our lives it’s difficult to see the blessing at the end when we’re in the middle of a tragedy. But, let us remember that what we go through is not just for our benefit but for the benefit of others and to glorify God.
 
The life of a true follower/disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ is one of trust through relationship. He says, “trust Me and know that I Am God.” So how can we trust someone we don’t know? We can’t! Our ability to overcome tragedy starts with knowing Jesus; having an intimate relationship with Him, not just head knowledge, so we will be able to trust Him in times of trouble. It isn’t about trying to figure it out or trying to guess what God is up to. So many think we can understand Him, but He never asks us to figure it out or guess what He’s doing. For it is impossible to understand Him (Isa 55:8-9) “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, “says the LORD, for as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.” I know 2 things for sure: there is a God and I’m not Him!
 
Job repented, at the end of the book in Ch.42, for uttering what he did not understand. Many times, Job said and believed things out of his ignorance about himself and the true nature of God. But even in the midst of his confusion he did not curse God or give up on Him. (Job 2:10) “But he said to his wife, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Can we say that about our lives in our walk with Jesus?

Jason Oehrlein

 
Questions to Consider

1. What questions do you have about God’s nature? Do you pray and ask Him to show you His true nature?
 
2. What keeps you from trusting Jesus when there is adversity in your life?
 
3. In what areas of your life do you still not trust Jesus? Are you willing to confess that lack of trust and ask for God’s help in those areas?



THE AFTERMATH | Roller Coaster Rhythms

Roller Coaster Rhythms
 
1 Kings 19:3-6 (NIV Translation) Elijah was afraid[a] and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it, and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
 
We learn early on in life that there are wins and losses. We start competing at a young age to get in a sports team or get first chair in band. We learn the sweet taste of victory and the bitter taste of defeat.  These days there are more losses than wins. Loss of jobs, loss of social life, loss of loved ones, loss of financial stability. We start to feel helpless and feel like we’ll fail no matter how hard we try. It can be so overwhelming that we want to quit. Through the prophet Elijah, God tells us that it’s normal to feel that way.
 
You might have heard the term “self-care” a lot recently. Self-care is a generic term used to describe any activity we do to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. In 1 Kings 19, we see Elijah scared because his life was threatened. We see how God encouraged Elijah to rest by sending an angel to make him food. The angel didn’t tell him to get over it and wake up, but simply said “get up and eat.” There are more times than normal where all we do is sleep and eat. It can feel gross and shameful being so unproductive, but God tells us it’s okay. There are times where things are so overwhelming that it’s okay to get nothing done but sleep and eat. We need to take care of ourselves, but only in a way that is fulfilling and encouraging. 
 
So, if you ever find yourself going through a day without being productive, just tell yourself it’s okay. Even Elijah needed a day where he didn’t do anything. In times where our lives seem totally out of our control, the one thing that we are in control of is our own mental and spiritual health. I’d encourage you to find what fills your spirit. Maybe it’s through listening to praise music or drawing something (even if all you can draw are stick figures). Find something to do that is for no one else but yourself. It’s important because you’re important. Mark Schlasner 
Questions to Consider:
 
1. What are some ways you take care of your mental and spiritual health? 

2. What is your week like when you don’t do that activity?

3. Has there ever been a time where you needed a self-care day to focus on your own health? If so, how did you feel afterwards?

4. What word of encouragement would you give someone struggling during this pandemic? Also, what word of encouragement do you need right now?



THE AFTERMATH | May Madness!

Ruth 1:16-22 New International Version (NIV)
16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” 
 
I graduated from Archbishop Brady High School (Now St. Croix Lutheran High School) in West St. Paul, MN. A musical group called, The Clash, released a song that we dubbed, “our senior class theme song”. The song was, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”. We were a close group (only 64 students in our graduating class). We were all pretty much in agreement that graduation would be a bitter-sweet experience for us. We were caught in the quandary between leaving the life we know and embarking on something unknown. We struggled with leaving our friends, many admired teachers, extracurricular activities, and the protection of living at home or the excitement of all the possibilities life could bring after high school.  After graduation we were looking forward to gainful employment, college or trade school, new relationships, and most likely moving away from home. The sadness of change versus the excitement of what was yet to come. Thus, the question, “Should I stay, or should I go”? 
 
This Sunday, Mother’s Day, I am excited to give the message for our worship service because the story from the Bible is one of my absolute favorites. It is the story of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz. The story begins with Naomi, her husband Elimelek, and their two sons Mahlon and Kilion, who leave their home in Bethlehem during a time of severe famine. They settle in a town called Moab and within 10 years, the two sons marry, Elimelek dies, and then the two sons die! The now widowed, childless Naomi tells her two daughters-in-law that they must each return to their families because she is unable to provide for them and because she will leave Moab to return to Bethlehem. One daughter-in-law kisses Naomi goodbye and leaves, but the other, called Ruth, stays by Naomi’s side, and tells her she will never leave her. It was never a question for Ruth of “should I stay, or should I go?”. Ruth was loyal and she was open to the challenges that life would bring as a widow and caretaker of another widow. And then enters a man named Boaz! 
 
May the story of Ruth teach us to trust God and trust others more fully.  May we learn from Boaz how to care for the poor and vulnerable around us. May we understand how God can use both big and little things to accomplish His great plans. May we all recognize Jesus as our true Kinsman Redeemer.

Pastor Deb Marzahn

 
Questions to Consider:
 
1. Is there a time when you have had to relocate somewhere? What adjustments did you have to make?
 
2. Have you ever had someone help you move? What did you appreciate about the help?
 
3. Have you ever had to rely on someone else for financial support? What were the circumstances? Have you ever given someone financial support? How did that make you feel?
 
4. Who is our true redeemer?  What is your relationship like with the ultimate “kinsmen redeemer?” How do you put your trust in Him?



THE AFTERMATH | Pandemic Exile

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
 
We are in the midst of a pandemic and this crisis is beginning to change. Crisis moments call for strong, decisive action. We all want to know that someone is in charge and things are being managed. But once the initial crisis calms, a period of disorientation sets in as we find our way to a new normal. The resolute leadership style that worked well during the initial crisis won’t work well in this ongoing unsettled space. “Stay at home” does not work forever.
 
We are now in a “liminal season”, stuck between an ending and a new beginning. The word liminal literally means threshold. Now, we have no choice but to let go of the old normal. We occupy space on both sides of a threshold. One foot is rooted in something trying to end; another is planted in a thing not yet defined, something waiting to begin. We cling to structures, identities and relationships formed by our old experiences, although we know that those processes and practices will not serve us adequately moving forward. It would be a mistake to shore up the old structures and practices as things get “back to normal.” We need to take advantage of this moment to let old things die, to experiment, to take risks and learn.
 
The way we “did church” even two months ago is done. We have been asked by our government to not gather for worship in our buildings. We can reassure ourselves by pretending the disruption is temporary. As Pastor Dan and I preached on Sunday, no one knows what normal looks like after sheltering in place. Likely, we will resume many familiar things, but congregational life will not be the same. Some will be disoriented and confused. Some will fear coming back to corporate worship. There will continue to be grief and struggles with finances. 
 
I believe that this new season of change requires a different approach to our thinking and feeling. Our actions and responses must originate from a Spiritual center. We are called during this season to be less busy and more yielding. More than ever, I believe God is calling us to surrender. To surrender does not mean giving up or giving in. It does not mean we languish or grow lazy. It is quite the opposite. It means we lean into the disorientation and trust the leading of the Holy Spirit. Striving, rather than surrendering, was the mood of the first season of this crisis. Striving is the act of working harder and longer to prove mastery, merit and worth. Through our hard work and determination, pastors and leadership figured out how to put church online. We toiled to demonstrate our care for people when we could not physically be present with them. We dropped off blessing bags and made phone calls. We learned new ways to connect with those in need. We set up Zoom meetings for small groups and had socially distanced events like our Easter Drive-in worship. We emphasized online giving via the website and texting. CROSSROADS leaders have done good industrious work. They have continued to be the church and offer hope to our community. 
 
This next season requires adaptive learning.  Learning begins with surrender. I acknowledge that I don’t have answers. I yield my spirit to God’s leading and invite the CROSSROADS family to do the same. In our Scripture passage from the prophet Jeremiah, we see hope and encouragement. The chosen people of God have been defeated by Babylon’s army and are taken into captivity. They know someday they will return to their land. Meanwhile they live in a liminal season getting used to the New Normal. Yet in the midst of their exile, Jeremiah reminds them that God is still with them and God has a plan for them. Those same words still ring true for us in our pandemic exile. May we continue to remember that God is with us. May we always seek out God’s plan for our lives. May all of us use this liminal space and time to surrender our will to God.
 
In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn 
 

Questions to Consider:

1. What is one “new normal” you are experiencing? How has this change affected you or those around you?

2. How does one experience peace during a pandemic? How can we draw closer to God during this time?

3. What does it mean to surrender to God during this liminal season? How can we still be productive and effective during this season?



THE AFTERMATH | New Normal

New Normal

Ezra 3:12-13 “But many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders who had seen the first Temple wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation. The others, however, were shouting for joy. The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance.” (NLT)
 
Jerusalem and the Temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. They took the Jews to Babylon where they would remain in exile for 70 years. Then the king decreed that the Jews could return to their homeland. When the Jews returned to Jerusalem, they started work on rebuilding the Temple. There was rejoicing when the foundation was completed. But the older Jews, who remembered the original Temple, started weeping because they could see the New Temple would be inferior to the original. 
 
The aftermath of this pandemic will be similar to the mixed emotions experienced by the Jewish exiles. As we start to return to “normal”, things will be different than before. There will be much rejoicing as people begin to resume familiar routines and activities. We will celebrate being able to congregate at church again!  But at the same time, there will be sadness and weeping. The isolation of “sheltering at home” will affect us in unknown ways. Many will still be fearful and anxious. Some will feel disconnected because they’re unable to show affection by shaking hands and giving hugs. Widespread economic hardships could follow with many businesses unable to reopen and workers having no jobs to return to. People will long in their hearts for the pre-virus world that is now part of history.   
 
How can we as followers of Jesus be prepared to respond to this new normal? We can pray that God can use us to bring the Good News of Jesus to a world experiencing mixed emotions. To the rejoicing, may we remind them that this is a time to offer thanks to God who brought us through the pandemic. To the weeping, may we bring comfort, hope, and new life that comes only from Jesus. The aftermath will soon be upon us.  May we, with the power of the Holy Spirit, seize this opportunity to affect many for the kingdom of God! 

Pastor Dan Schauer

 
Questions to Consider:

  1. How will you rejoice and worship God as we begin to return to a new normal?
  1. What are some ways God has gifted me to minister to those who will mourn?
  1. In what way can I shine a light to the future to those around me in the aftermath of this pandemic?

 



THE AFTERMATH | It’s Still Easter

It’s Still Easter
 
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
 
In a pandemic world, many of us are afraid; we are afraid for our finances; we are afraid for our health. Some of are even afraid of their neighbors.  A recent phenomenon has occurred that is not reported on as much as the toilet paper crisis. It is the gun and ammunition crisis. Gun shop owners are also with empty shelves. People are purchasing them out of fear. 
 
I am not an anti-gun advocate. Many of you reading this are aware that I own several guns. I inherited them from my grandfather and father and also purchased one for my son.  Growing up out on the farm, guns were part of life. We used our guns for hunting and sport target practice. We used them to kill wild animals that would attack our sheep or cattle. They were not purchased out of fear of our neighbors. Yet in today’s world some are purchasing weapons out of fear.
 
Jesus understood fear and that is why he reminded his followers that love can overcome fear.  Our last words when we say goodbye to someone matter.  We tend to remember a final phrase more than anything else.  Jesus wanted his disciples to be assured he wasn’t leaving for good, and that they did not need to be afraid because He would remain with them in Spirit, even though his body was returning to heaven to be with His Father. Jesus wanted to reassure them that they were not alone. He would journey with them to the very end of their lives until they would join Him, together in heaven. 
 
We have this same opportunity to accept the words of Jesus and remember we do not need to be afraid. We need not fear because Jesus will be with us until the end of the age. We can feel a sense of peace and hope because Jesus reassures us that death does not have the last word. May we live into our faith rather than our fears this Easter season. May we envision an eternity with Jesus, so we never forget “It’s Still Easter”.
 
Questions to Consider:
1. What is one Easter tradition you or your family celebrate? What changed this year?
2. Where have you experienced the presence of Jesus this Easter season? Have you been able to experience Peace during the Pandemic? Why or why not? 
3. Hope is all around. Where have you seen signs of hope recently?