Weekly Devotion

Catch | Slipping Through the Net

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 3:23

Several decades ago there was a problem with overpopulation on an African game preserve. There were too many elephants. Limited by the technology available at the time, the solution was to move the babies to new preserves. Everyone watched, gravely concerned, but the baby elephants thrived. However, unintended consequences emerged. At the new locations, a decade after the transfer, someone was killing off rhinoceros which were an endangered species. It turned out the killers were young male elephants. At first the game wardens couldn’t believe it; this was uncharacteristic behavior never before seen in elephants. They deduced that the young males had grown up without fathers, without any male role models. Some suggested that mature males were needed. There was concern that it would be too late, that the adolescent males had to have grown up with their elders. Some felt that bringing “daddies” in later in life would do no good. They decided to try it anyway. The new mature male elephants trained the young males how to behave. In a matter of weeks, the elephant herds returned to normal behavior. All the young elephants needed was guidance and direction.

Did you know that if a child is the first person in a household to become a Christian, there is a 3.5% probability everyone else in the household will follow? If the mother is the first to become a Christian, there is a 17% probability everyone else in the household will follow. Did you know if the father is first in the household to become a fully devoted follower, there is a 93% probability everyone else in the household will follow? Godliness, like fatherliness, is no easy task. This week we pray for Fathers who are teaching their children what Christ has done for us on the cross.   We also pray for those who have absent fathers that God the Father will be their teacher and guide.

In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn

Catch | Deciding to Fish

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.

Luke 5:4-6 NIV

I was talking to another church planter this week and he worked on a church plant for several years. It grew and he discipled a lot of persons into fully devoted followers of Jesus. But because of an illness, he had to discontinue church planting. Some would say his church plant failed. I would say God gave him a respite and allowed him to see how his disciples continued on without his leadership. After years of healing, he has been discerning where God will use him next. He was reading this passage and realized that God wants him to cast out his net, again. He could easily say, “been there, done that, and I am not doing it again”. But in his heart he knows the miracle of Jesus and wants to experience the joy of partnering in the catch once again. He wants to listen to God’s voice and cast out his net again even though it doesn’t make sense.

Deciding to take the risk to reach out to people is hard. Whether we are talking to a family member, a friend, or someone we just met. I can easily come up with excuses as to why I don’t want to share about the redeeming love of Jesus Christ. At the CROSSROADS Men’s Bible study, we came up with a few excuses of our own: 1) I don’t know how, 2) I am afraid, 3) I’m not smart enough, 4) My faith is weak, 5) I have a lot questions and doubts myself, 6) I still sin and feel I am a hypocrite. This week we hope to explore together how to fish for people that are far from God. May God give you the courage to fish so you can experience the joy of the catch.

In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn

Catch | Going Out to Fish

Therefore as you are going make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Matthew 28:18-20.

For part of my son’s graduation gift we went to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. While going down the Kawishiwi River we did some fishing, canoeing, and even running on the rapids. (We did flip our canoe in the 34 degree water, but that is a story for another day.) Sometimes I fished from shore by casting out into the river and intentionally worked the shore for a short period of time. Sometimes I trawled for fish while canoeing; I would pull the lure behind and enjoy fish biting as I was moving along.

Jesus encourages us to trawl or fish “as we are going.”  Jesus challenges his closest disciples to make other disciples. He wants them to do this as a part of their everyday lives. Jesus is advocating “lifestyle evangelism” where we invite persons into a relationship with God through sharing God’s love. Simply put, we are asked to witness to our faith as we go throughout the day. Some think of outreach as a program or activity. Lifestyle evangelism taught by Jesus is a reminder that we disciple best by doing it over time through relationships.

In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn

Connect Through Worship

While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.

Luke 24:51, 52 NIV

Worship attendance in America is on the decline. Some of this is due to non-believers choosing to stay away from church.  Attendance is also down because many Christ followers that attended weekly are now becoming “once-a-monthers.”  Once a month fills the minimum requirement for some. Some choose worship as an optional free time activity, “Should I go to worship or should I go to a Twins game on Sunday?” Some attend a gathering of believers in a service but never really engage God or enter into the presence of the sacred. Worship is a habit or mere ritual. True worship is connecting with God and looking forward to each time we can gather with other believers.

I heard a story of a whale that was trapped offshore in Alaska. As the winter became colder the whale moved with the ice flow until it was cut off from the open water. In order to free the whale, the residents cut holes in the ice so the whale could come up to breath.  To encourage the whale to move they cut holes about 100 feet apart heading in the direction of freedom.  The giant mammal would take a deep breath and swim from one hole to the next.  Each hole provided much needed air for survival and movement. I feel worship is like air. When we worship, we are like that whale that pops out from under the ice and gulps a breath of fresh air. Worship allows us to breath the Spirit of God and refreshes us. It moves us closer to freedom.  May you be refreshed this week with worship.

In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn

Connect As Witnesses

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

Luke 24:45-48

We are called to be witnesses of the story of Jesus. Some define witnessing as giving a testimony or sharing about something you have seen. This is part of the meaning, but the witnessing the early disciples did eventually cost many of them their lives. The word in the Greek for witness is similar to our modern word of “martyr.” A martyr, according to Wikipedia, is a person who willingly suffers death rather than renounce his or her religion or a person who is put to death or endures great suffering on behalf of any belief, principle, or cause.  We give thanks to those who have gone before us who have suffered because of their faith in this incredible story.

We are blessed that we can often witness to our faith without the extreme prejudice that is experienced in some parts of the world. We are called to share the good news of the story of Jesus who offers hope and not condemnation. Jesus offers empowerment and not imprisonment. The message of Jesus, when shared in word and deed, gives life and not death. Be a true witness to the love of God in the world this week.

In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn

Connecting With Reality

And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.

Luke 24:41-43 NIV

Last weekend I preached on the disciples’ encounter with Jesus on their walk to Emmaus. I mentioned that Jesus was recognized in the breaking of the bread.  What is it with food in the Bible? Why is it mentioned so often? Jesus was tempted by food in the wilderness, Jesus gave out food to 5000, Jesus shared a last supper with his disciples, and then when Jesus was resurrected he returns and starts eating with them again. Today’s text of Jesus requesting food demonstrates that he has a real body. He is not a ghost but a real person returned from the dead. A person who eats with his friends.

Viktor E. Frankl recounted an experience he had when he was in a Nazi concentration camp. He was at the end of his rope from having so little food. When he had lost every possession and had every value destroyed, someone gave him a piece of bread. Frankl wrote, “I remember how a foreman secretly gave me a piece of bread which I knew he must have saved from his breakfast ration. It was far more than the small piece of bread which moved me to tears at the time. It was the human ‘something’ this man also gave to me — the word and the look which accompanied the gift.” Keep on the lookout for that ‘human something’ the next time you break bread with another person. It is amazing how sharing food and a kind word can allow people to see the presence of Christ. May you share the reality of Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn

Connecting With Jesus

They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

Luke 24:32

I love going to RED ROCK Camp. It has amazing worship, great preaching, and lots of fun things to do. One of my favorite free time activities is sailing. Rev. Gordon Langmade, who used to attend our church, donated his sailboat to Red Rock Camp and every day he would start morning chapel by shouting “IT IS A GREAT DAY FOR SAILING.” Deb and I would love to take the boat out and sail around the lake. One particular time we got out past the shore and the wind stopped. We were dead in the water. No way to get back. Then a group from the camp came by in a pontoon boat. It was embarrassing, but we flagged them down and they towed us back to shore. It was quite humbling, but I learned a valuable life lesson: The difference between a sailboat and a pontoon is great. The sailboat depends on the weather and the wind. The pontoon has power within itself. The engine and fuel can allow it to make progress regardless of the wind and weather.

Jesus opened the eyes of the disciples by showing them the Scriptures. He, in essence, gave them power. This type of power given by God is not dependent upon education, circumstances, or even talent. Jesus let us know that when we understand the Scripture our hearts will burn and we will receive the power of the Holy Spirit. They were no longer defeated by the authorities but rather used the power of God to spread the good news.

In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn


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Connect With God’s Story

During Holy Week CROSSROADS spent a great deal of time connecting the story of Jesus to our story.  We started the week with a special drama that I had written and acted in and was produced by Zach Lemmens. This drama depicted the final hours of Jesus through the eyes of Simon of Cyrene who carried the cross for Jesus. This powerful drama is still on our CROSSROADS YouTube Site. If you care to watch or share with others, Click HERE .

On Palm Sunday we also held a special concert and worship service led by Sara Renner at our Minneapolis Campus. Throughout the week we celebrated the Passover Seder in small groups in a variety of locations and on Wednesday night had larger celebrations at the Inver Grove Heights Campus and Lakeville Campus. At the Seder meals we discussed the symbolic foods and retold the story of the Exodus and how Jesus was now the Passover lamb.  On Maundy Thursday we joined in a special ecumenical prayer service and on Good Friday we celebrated with a Tenebrae service in the historic Heritage Chapel at the Inver Grove Heights church..  Saturday morning was the launch of our CROSSROADS Motorcycle Ministry which did its first prayer and ride to Henderson, Minnesota. On Saturday evening, Pastor Gordon Deuel led his first worship service at the Elko – New Market Campus. This “sneak peak” worship service will continue to be held at the Heritage UMC church in New Prague, on the third Saturdays at 5:00pm as they do outreach, grow small groups, and continue to prepare for the public phase of their ministry.

Resurrection Day was a huge blessing as we returned our CROSSES to the front of their respective sanctuaries. Inver Grove Heights and Lakeville Campuses were recently painted and bringing the crosses back after 40 days put the finishing touches on our spaces.  We challenged everyone to carry a personal wooden cross the last 40 days of lent and share the story of Jesus wherever they went. I have heard some incredible transformation stories of how the 800 crosses we gave out during Lent impacted others. At the Easter Worship Services at all campuses we took a “God’s Selfie.” This photo is a tangible reminder that we are Christ’s Ambassadors to the world. We need to be the hands and feet and reflection of Jesus to others. As we move into this season called Eastertide remember that Christ has risen. We are a resurrection people. We are “God’s Selfie.” Share God’s love with a hurting world.

In Christ’s love and service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn

Connect to the Empty Tomb

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.    

Luke 24:1-3 NIV

Jeff London in his book, You Think It Is All Over, discusses how we as pastors and as churches like to rush to the empty tomb. He states, “Do we really need the emotional roller coaster of Holy Week? What’s so wrong with just jumping from one parade to the next and skipping all the sacrifice and death stuff?”  One person from our church recently critiqued the movie, Son Of God. She stated,”I liked the healing and miracle stories, but I wish they could have sped up the part where he was suffering. In the movie Jesus’ suffering lasted approximately 15 minutes. In real time it was more than 18 hours. This is why on Palm Sunday we discussed the suffering of Jesus through the eyes of Simon of Cyrene. As believers, We need to understand that the only way to Easter is through the cross. Please consider the CROSSROADS invitation this week to not rush to the empty tomb. Reflect on Christ’s suffering and death as you carry the cross this final week of Lent. Watch the drama performed by Pastor Paul on www.public_html or the CROSSRADS You Tube Channel. Think about what Simon says about Jesus being the blood of the lamb that takes away the sins of the world. Come to the Seder Meal service Wednesday night at the Lakeville or Inver Grove Heights Campuses and the Thursday Tenebra candlelight service at the Inver Grove Heights Campus. I look forward to seeing you at Resurrection Day this Sunday at CROSSROADS. Don’t forget to invite a friend!

In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn


He Carried The Cross

As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.

Luke 23:26 NIV

Simon of Cyrene is barely mentioned in Scripture but his story is an important one. The Bible records that Jesus was on his way to be crucified. As part of the punishment, a prisoner was often forced to carry the large cross beam or a full cross to the place where they were to be killed. It would be like a prisoner carrying their own rope to the gallows. It was part of the torture and humiliation. Jesus was probably exhausted from the 39 lashes and severe beatings he had already endured. With all the blood loss he probably was barely able to walk let alone carry a large cross. The Roman guards wanting to keep moving toward Golgotha were not going to help a criminal. Therefore, they forced Simon who was passing by to carry the cross for Jesus.  Simon was not a willing participant. It says they “seized him” and “made him” carry the cross. Simon would not have wanted to help the Romans kill a fellow Jew. He also would not have wanted the blood of another on him since he was participating in the Passover Festival.  The blood, in Simon’s mind, would have made him “unclean.”  According to Levitical law, Simon would have had to go through ceremonial cleansing before participating in the passover if the blood of Jesus was on him. The irony is that it is by the blood of Jesus we have all been made clean.  As you reflect on Jesus suffering on the cross, how has the blood of Jesus cleansed you?

In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul

This Sunday at the Lakeville and Inver Grove Heights Campuses we will have a special drama performance during the regular worship times called, “HE CARRIED THE CROSS.” This drama performance is seen through the eyes of Simon of Cyrene who shares the final events in the life of Jesus as depicted in the book of Luke.  Pastor Paul Marzahn will play the character of Simon and will share what it feels like to carry the cross of Jesus. This is a special opportunity to invite guests who may need to understand the story of Jesus.

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