Weekly Devotion
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

BLESS THE WORLD | Listen

BLESS THE WORLD | Listen 

Mark 1:35 –  “Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.” – (NLT)

Like many, I struggle with quiet time with God.  I have the discipline of Scripture reading every morning (and now every night for over a year.) I spend time in prayer. I have devotional time scheduled into my day. I even quiet my heart to hear from God. But many times what I think about during my quiet times are my unanswered emails I need to respond to.  I am processing my “to do” lists and my calendar rather than truly quieting my heart. It takes me awhile to let go of my action items and listen to God’s action items for my life and our community called CROSSROADS.  It is a process I continually work at. Some days are better than others. This morning was a struggle. I am praying that tonight goes better. Maybe that’s why I like driving my Harley Davidson motorcycle in the summer. No phone going off. Just time with God and the road.

I also struggle with listening to others. Just ask my wife or kids. I mean well. I ask good questions. But I have to really focus on listening and not thinking about what I am going to say next. I’ve been trained in counseling so I know what I am supposed to do. I just struggle sometimes with really doing active listening and reflection. The apostle James gives great advice to his fellow believers.  James 1:19  “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”

This season leading up to Easter I am going to focus more on listening. I want to listen more to God and more fully to others. I am turning off the radio when I drive. I am taking out my ear buds when I work out. I am going to look people in the eye more so I can sense how they are feeling when they speak. My prayer for you is that you may evaluate how you are doing at listening. May we all listen more fully to God and one another. May we all listen more and speak less. May we be a blessing to the world through listening.

In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul

Questions to Consider: 
1. Honest evaluation – how am I as a listener?  Ask those close to you for their opinion.  Give them permission to be honest.

2. What steps can I take this week to be a better listener to God?

3. Who is someone in my life that I could do a better job listening to?
 



BLESS THE WORLD | Bless

BLESS THE WORLD

Philippians 2:3-4 

“I don’t know about you, but I love to be “blessed” and I love to “bless” others. When we bless someone, we are strengthening someone else. Part of the etymology of the term means to “add strength to another’s arm” meaning to build them up, to fill them with encouragement, for them to increase in strength and prosperity.  God wants us to surprise the world by living in such a way that we are a blessing to others. The Apostle Paul states in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 “So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it.” (MSG). 
 
One of my “love languages” is WORDS OF AFFIRMATION. Whether verbal or written I appreciate a well said compliment. Deb and I received a text on Sunday after our message sharing time. It meant the world to us to know someone cared enough to give us positive feedback on our message. Mark Twain once said:, “I can live for two months on a good compliment” My prayer for you this week is to bless others by affirming them. May God use you as an instrument of love to build others this week. May the God of creation assist you as you bless the world around you.
 
In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul
 

Questions to Consider: 

  1. Who are three people I can bless this week – at least one of whom is not a member of our church?
  2. What particular actions can I take to bless these three people this week?
  3. How can I solicit God’s and others’ help in my blessing people?
 


LOVE SPEAKS | Through Signs & Circumstances

“So, Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.””  Joshua 4:4-7 NIV
 
If you take the time to walk around the 12 ½ acres of the CROSSROADS LAKEVILLE Campus you will discover that the site is in the shape of an elongated curved triangle with three corners. The site shape and size are based on what some think is the ancient size and shape of Jericho in Israel.  If you remember the Biblical account Joshua entered the land promised to them by God by crossing the Jordan river miraculously. Then they miraculously conquered Jericho when the protective walls collapsed after they blew the trumpets for seven days. As part of a sign for future generations they put 12 large stones as markers to remember that God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness God also ushered them into the “Promised Land” and gave them authority over the inhabitants in the land. The stones were “to be a memorial” so future generations would not forget the story of how God gave them the land.
 
As CROSSROADS CHURCH was starting we received as a community a miraculous vision from God that was confirmed by signs and circumstances. We heard from God to build a “Biblically Functioning Community of Believers.” God revealed to those starting CROSSROADS that we were to build not just a church but a community where God would be present. Like Noah building an Ark to save the people, we were to build things needed by a community like a grocery store, fitness center, restaurants, shops, housing, a school, residents for seniors and a church. To never forget the VISION and GOD’s PROVISION we put twelve stones around each of the three corners of the 12 ½ acres. Every time I walk around or drive around the property at Cedar and Dodd in Lakeville, I give thanks for what God has done for us as a community. I remember in Paul’s letter to “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 May we continue to remember the vision God has for us as a community, and as individuals, to reach those who do not yet know His love. May CROSSROADS continue to be a place where “Faith and Life Meet.”

In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn
 

Questions to Consider:
1. How do we respect the vision of the past and yet move forward with where God is leading us?
2. Where have you seen God at work in your life? Where have you seen God around you in your life circumstances?



LOVE SPEAKS | Through the Holy Spirit

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”
Romans 8:26-27 NIV
 
Love speaks to us through the gift of the Holy Spirit. We connect with God through the Spirit of God knowing our needs and desires. We cry out for more of God and God answers that prayer through the Holy Spirit. I want more too—to see more than I’ve seen, know God better than I’ve known Him, and love Him more than I’ve loved Him. We should not be content to just “do church” but rather crave to connect with God. He has already given us all of Himself. He didn’t give us just a portion of the Spirit; He gave us The Spirit. The cry for more is deep calling out to deep, a longing to experience more and have greater awareness. It’s growing in our knowledge of what He has given and what we can freely access in Him.
 
I believe the Holy Spirit has been conditioning our minds to understand this and bringing us to a place where our hearts are so uncluttered that we can be truly filled with all His peace and fullness. We are in a tremendous season at CROSSROADS where I sense the Holy Spirit encouraging us. May we yield to the Spirit and allow the Holy Spirit to work through us.  May we allow the Spirit to intercede on our behalf. May we all share the power of the Spirit with others.
 
In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn



LOVE SPEAKS | Through Creation & Nature

“Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:19-20

God speaks to us in many ways. God speaks through His Word – The Bible and we discussed the importance of the Love Story of God in Scripture last week. This week we will look at how God speaks to us through Creation. I personally have had some of my most powerful worship experiences in natural surroundings. In my 20’s I worked at a Christian Camp called Star Lake Wilderness Camp. We would worship at the beach around the fire, in an old TeePee and an outdoor chapel. We would sing songs, tell stories, hear testimonies and even share communion outdoors. We would also just lay at the beach at night and stare up at the stars. I saw God’s presence and heard God’s voice everywhere. God called me into ministry through wilderness experiences. One major conversation with God was on a mountain top in Montana that included some thunder and lightning. I was reminded of God’s awesome power.

Creation and nature are powerful reminders of God and the gift of this world He gave us. Creation is amazing. It points to God and His love for us. We have to remember to not worship creation but instead The Creator who gave us the world and everything in it. Deb and I love hiking the trails of Sedona, Arizona. The beautiful Red Rocks draw us into his presence as we see wade through streams climb Cathedral Rock. We encounter some on the trails who believe Vortexes and other things are God in nature. This “New Age” faith is an older tradition called pantheism. Pantheism or the worship of nature was alive and well during the time of Jesus and the early church. We are called to care for and steward creation but not to worship it.

As we look at the power and presence of God revealed through CREATION this week may God speak to you. Take some time this week to enjoy being outside (yes even in Minnesota in the winter.). May we continue to see God all around us as we hear His voice. May we also care for the creation he has given us.

In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn



LOVE SPEAKS | Through His Word

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.”
John‬ ‭1:1-2 ‭

John Wesley the founder of the Methodist movement was a firm believer that the love of God spoke through God’s Word – The Holy Scriptures.

“I want to know one thing – the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore…God himself has condescended to teach me the way. For this very end He came from heaven. He has written it down in a book.

O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: Here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be “homo unius libri”: a man of ONE BOOK! Here then I am far from the busy ways of men. I sit down alone: only God is there. In his presence I open the book; for this end, to find the way to heaven. Is there doubt concerning the meaning of what I read? Does anything appear dark or intricate? I lift up my heart to the Father of Lights: Lord, is it not said in Your Word, ‘if any lack wisdom, let him ask God?’ You give liberally…I then search after and consider parallel passage of Scripture, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

I meditate therein with all the attention and earnestness of which my mind is capable. If any doubt still remains, I consult those who are experienced in the things of God: and then the writings whereby, being dead, they yet still speak.” (John Wesley, Preface to his published 53 sermons)

One way we hear God is by reading and meditating upon the Bible. God’s Word opens our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit. To hear God, we need to read God’s truth. May we all hear LOVE SPEAK through Scriptures. May we all take time to listen to God and read His Word daily.

In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul

Questions to Consider:

1. What was the first bible you ever had? What do you remember most about it?
2. What’s your favorite bible verse or story?
3. What are your non-negotiables? Where have you drawn the line on what you won’t compromise on your beliefs?
4. When is a time you applied Biblical principle?



DO THE NEXT RIGHT THING | Knowledge and Self-control

Add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control….
-2 Peter 1:6

(Excerpt from Roger Thompson’s Book – Doing the Next Right Thing”)

“On April 26, 2003, Aaron Ralston was hiking through Blue John Canyon. While he was descending into a narrow, slot canyon, a suspended eight-hundred-pound boulder became dislodged, crushing his right hand against the wall. He was trapped and unable to move. He had told no one of his hiking plans so he knew no one would be searching for him. He spent five days rationing his food but eventually had to do something or die in the wilderness. Ralston eventually arrived at the conclusion he would have to amputate his arm. He broke both of the bones on his arm and then spent the better part of an hour cutting his arm off with a dull two-inch knife. After amputating his arm, he was dehydrated and had lost about 25 percent of his blood. He then had to rappel 65 a foot sheer wall with one hand and hike out the canyon. While hiking out of the canyon, Aaron was blessed to encounter a family from the Netherlands on vacation, who gave him water and Oreos. They then alerted the authorities who came and gave Aaron the medical treatment he so desperately needed.”

Why do I share such a gruesome tale? Because Aaron Ralston exhibited both of the qualities we are studying this week – Knowledge and Self-control. He used his knowledge of human anatomy to make a difficult but lifesaving decision. He exhibited self-control by overcoming the pain during such a difficult procedure. The Apostle Peter in his letter acknowledges that knowledge and self-control are needed to build upon one’s faith. Blind faith can lead to bad decisions. Informed faith can move one toward more mature decisions. May we all seek more knowledge to sustain our faith. May we all grow in our self-control, so we exhibit maturity in Christ.

In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul
 
Questions to Consider:
1. How would you define knowledge? Why is it beneficial?
2. What is one new truth you have discovered recently about God or Scripture?
3. What experiences have required you to keep a strong handhold on knowledge in order to keep you from falling?
4. How have you learned self-control the hard way through consequences?
5. What situations have you exhibited self-control? What positive benefits have you seen as a result?


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?