Weekly Devotion
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Talking With God – 12-26-2017

Matthew 6: 9-13 “This, then, is how you should pray,?‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’”
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My friend Pastor Adam Weber in his book Talking With God tells a great story about prayer.

One day a pastor met with a friend in a coffee shop. The friend had a burning issue to talk about but the pastor didn’t know what it was. The pastor was curious & after 10 minutes of small talk the friend said, “Well, I’ll just get to why I wanted to get together. I feel foolish for asking this, since I’m a grown adult. I grew up going to church, and this is something everyone else probably knows but me. It just looks so easy for others. But I just want to ask: How do you pray?” After a pause & a breath, the friend quickly continued, “I should probably know this, right? But I don’t. I feel stupid, and I wasn’t sure who to ask. And again, this probably comes easy for everyone else. But again, how do you pray? Like, what do you say? Do you start with, ‘Hey, God, it’s me’?
Is there a right or wrong way to pray? Can I screw this up?”

Have you ever felt like that? Or asked questions like that? You’re not alone. Jesus’ first followers were just as puzzled as this friend. They struggled like we do. Prayers do not need to be long, and there’s no need to use big words. God isn’t impressed with how we pray or the things we say.???? In fact, he already knows what we need, even before we start.

According to a Pew Research Center survey in 2014, 55% of Americans say they pray every day. Even 20% of those with no religious affiliation pray daily. The same survey found that 45% of Americans & 55% of Christians ?say they rely a lot on prayer when making major life decisions. Yet many of us struggle to pray. We may feel intimidated & awkward ???????trying to talk with the Creator of the entire universe.

At CROSSROADS this weekend we will be learning more about prayer. Pastor Bruce Ruggles will be preaching as Pastor Deb and I lead the mission team down at Rio Bravo. This is going to be an awesome series. Don’t miss it.

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn



Unstuffing The Bah Humbug – 12-19-2017

“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
??Luke? ?1:45? ?NIV??

We all know the Christmas classic by Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol. It is a play that depicts a man named “Scrooge” who does not celebrate Christmas and considers the season a “Bah-humbug.” One of my favorite lines from the play is, “darkness is cheap and Scrooge liked it.” Scrooge preferred darkness over light. He focused on money rather than hospitality or even love.

 

By the end of the play Scrooge has a transformation. The three spirits helped him to see the path he was on. At the end he stated, ”I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year.” And every one remembers the final quote by Tiny Tim, “God bless us, everyone!”

 

Sometimes we can get a Scrooge type attitude around Christmas. We let the Christmas crabiness settle in. Yesterday someone told me to turn off my Christmas music because they were sick and tired of hearing “Joy To The World.” It is sad when we get tired of hearing the Good News. We have to be intentional to not let the the “bah humbugs” around us steal our joy.

 

Mary in today’s Scripture receives God’s blessing. She is excited to be used by God. She is so overwhelmed with God’s love, she breaks into a song of glory to God. May we be more like Mary and be eager to be used by God. May we see the blessings around us and be quick to give God the glory.

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn



Unstuffing the Stress

“The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”
??Luke? ?1:35? ?NIV??

I do not do well under stress. I often get too much going on and I allow the pressure to get to me. For example, I was at CROSSROADS Trustees work day last Saturday. We had rented a lift to do a number of projects. Various volunteers were fixing projectors, repairing stage lights, installing new lights, running cables, etc… We were on a timeline and I was recruited to clean some lights in our lobby 35 feet up. I had done it before so it was no big deal. As I was cleaning, I looked out and saw lights that had bulbs that were burned out. It’s surprising what you notice at 35 feet taking a selfie. For some reason, I started feeling stressed that I needed to be the one to fix this problem, and fix it immediately. 

Burned out lights were not a priority for anyone else at the time but I was stressing about it. I took it out on others and if you were around me at that point I apologize. Not very mature Christian behavior. I had an EXPECTATION (unrealistic) every project needing a lift could be done in four hours on a Saturday morning so we could save the extra rental charge. I had lost perspective on so many counts. I lost perspective of the hard work of the leadership and how much they had already accomplished. I lost perspective on time and the amount needed to do projects. Most of all I lost perspective on our CROSSROADS Core Value of JOY and PROCESS. Working together should be building up community and not tearing it down. I blew it big time. I let stress steal my Christmas joy and probably let my stress steal the joy of others. I am working hard to give that day to God and move forward to restore my joy and the joy of those around me.

I can imagine the stress Mary and Joseph were under being engaged and planning a wedding. Then they get the news they are pregnant. Not only the pressures of a child before marriage but being told your son is the Messiah who is born to take away the sins of the world. Talk about major stress! Yet they listened to God’s message and messengers and did not give up. They worked through the stressful situation and changed their personal expectations to align with God’s expectations. That is what we are all called to do. No matter what the situation, we are called to align our expectations with God. May your expectations be lowered to help see what is really needed. May God and God’s plan help alleviate your stress this Christmas season. 

In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn


UNSTUFFED

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


Celebration Sunday – Gratitude

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

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

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

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

Benefits of gratitude include:

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

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

In Christ,
Pastor Paul


All Saints’ Eve

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

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

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

Pastor Paul Marzahn



Be Rich

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

– 1 Timothy 6:18

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ,

Pastor Paul Marzahn



Living Your Strengths

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

??-Psalm? ?139:13-14? ?NIV??

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

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

In Christ,

Pastor Paul Marzahn


Living In Community

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

-Acts 2:42-45

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

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

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

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

Blessings,

Pastor Paul Marzahn


Aiming For True Greatness

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

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

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

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

Pastor Paul Marzahn