Weekly Devotion

Carry the Cross: I Am a Good Person

Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.

Luke 18:24, 25 NIV

This passage of Jesus in Luke is often quoted, but seldom fully explained. Jesus is discussing money and salvation with a

rich young ruler. The ruler asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. When Nicodemus asks the same question, Jesus responds that you must be born again. This time Jesus tells the rich ruler that he has to sell all he has. There are over 2000 verses in the Bible that either directly or indirectly relate to finances in the Bible. It is a popular topic because

God knows that we struggle with our possessions. Jesus then continues the lesson saying, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Jesus was not teaching poverty in this example. Jesus was not even teaching that we need to sell or give away everything in order to be saved. He was teaching that rich people must not love their possessions more than they love God. Jesus was making a point to the rich ruler that he needed to learn to trust in God and God’s grace rather than to place all his confidence in worldly possessions.

In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn

[Spiritual Disciplines Worksheet]

Carry the Cross: I’m Too Busy

“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all….Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.¨

Luke 17:26, 27,33 NIV

You could actually call this the ¨Year of the Ark.¨ Ark themes are popping up everywhere.

In the Netherlands, you can now visit “Ark van Noach.” This ark is full-sized and actually floats. It was built by a construction company owner named Johan Huibers and cost $1.3 million. This replica of the ark weighs over 3,000 tons. In Hong Kong, another full-sized replica of Noah’s ark exists at “Noah’s Ark Park and Resort.” Alongside the ark is a solar telescope, gardens, and evangelistic displays. It reminds persons that God destroyed the world and will be coming again in final glory as depicted in Revelation. (Unfortunately, its Christian benefactors are on trial facing bribery and corruption charges.) In Frostburg, Maryland, you can see “God’s Ark of Safety.” It was started by Church of the Brethren and Rev. Richard Greene in 1974. Rev Greens saw a series of visions that inspired him to build Noah’s ark next to Interstate 64. He’s been working on it ever since.  Similar to the movie “Evan Almighty,” people are quite concerned about his sanity. In Williamstown, Kentucky, plans are being laid for “Ark Encounter.” A group called “Answers in Genesis” wants to build a $73 million theme park with a full-scale ark and a zoo. Even Hollywood is getting on the bandwagon. Coming out next week is the major motion picture NOAH starring Russell Crowe. Hard to believe a 601 year old man could look as good as Russell Crowe or be as buff. I hope I look that good at 601.

In the Scripture for this week Jesus is giving the disciples and those listening, “a warning and an encouragement.” He is encouraging them by letting them know the “Kingdom of God” is in their midst. He is warning them by letting them know that judgement will come like the days of Noah and persons will not be prepared. Like many of them, we may be too busy living life to think about God and God´s reign. Jesus is also encouraging them by letting them know that the Kingdom of God is a present reality and a future reality. The key to being a part of the kingdom is the same now as in the time of Noah. Surrender your will to the will of God and experience the reign of God as a reward. Come this weekend to learn more about how Luke challenges us to lose our life so Christ can save it.


In Christ´s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn

How are you doing on your [Spiritual Disciplines]?

Carry Your Cross: It Costs Too Much

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

Luke 4:1, 2 NIV

During the 40 Days of Lent we are encouraging persons to follow the Wesley Spiritual Disciplines and choose a discipline of abstinence and a discipline of engagement. We are studying the life of Jesus and have been discussing how he fasted and prayed for 40 days. Fasting brings our bodies into harmony with God’s love because it teaches us to realize that we don’t need to give our body what it wants all the time. It helps to subdue all those things that we overdo, like overeating, too much media, compulsive shopping, etc… We can abstain or fast from many things in order to focus more fully on God’s presence during the next 40 days.

If you choose to abstain from food, this is how I would suggest doing it:

-Make sure you talk with your doctor before you fast. If you have health issues that prevent it, you may choose to abstain from something other than food. Examples include electronic devices or other things that may distract you from the love of God.

-If you’re going to fast from food and have never done it before, start by fasting one meal only, like lunch.

-If you want to fast for a day, I would encourage you to start after dinner so that you fast through the next dinner and just drink water for that entire day. You fast 24 hours but are then able to end your fast and not go to bed hungry.

-If you want to go hard-core for three days, drink only liquid made of one part healthy unpasteurized apple juice and two parts water. You may also buy a drink that has electrolytes in it so you do not became nauseous or dehydrated. The first day is difficult, the second day is torturous, but by the third day it is better.  I would not suggest beyond a three day fast without some liquid supplement.

Whatever you do, don’t fast to prove anything to yourself. Don’t do it to prove anything to anybody else. Do it to remind your body that “humanity does not live by bread alone,” as Jesus reminded Satan. When you fast, you train your body and teach it that the Spirit controls the flesh. As you fast, it frees up extra time for prayer, Bible reading, and serving. Through fasting, God will allow you to discover new truths to help you grow.

In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn

(Spiritual Disciplines Worksheet)

** There will be NO Community Meal or CROSSTRAINING this week in observance of Lakeville Spring Break.

Ash Wednesday

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

Luke 9:23 NIV

Jesus teaches his disciples many truths about spiritual disciplines and denial of selfish desires. In his ministry, Jesus was working himself geographically from Galilee south to Samaria and then to Judea, and eventually to Jerusalem.  He knew he was heading toward a brutal death on the cross but his disciples were still unsure. Some were holding on to the fact that he was a miracle worker and healer. Some thought he would go to Jerusalem and overthrow the government. Few really understood that the role of the suffering servant would mean dying on a cross.  This concept of taking up the cross would have been very confusing.  Why was Jesus asking us to deny ourselves for the kingdom?  We may ask the same thing.  Why is denial of self interlinked with discipleship?  The word “Disciple” is the root word for discipline.  They go together. John Wesley also picked up on these similar themes and required that pastors and spiritual mature Christians should practice the spiritual disciplines.   He outlined a number of things to abstain from and a number of spiritual engagements we should proactive regularly in order to “deny ourselves and take up our cross daily.” During our next message series we are challenging everyone to take up their cross – literally. We are handing out a small wooden cross at our Ash Wednesday service in worship and at CROSSTRAINING. We are asking everyone to carry their cross and think about the sacrifice of Jesus. We are also asking persons to use the cross to start spiritual conversations and think about ways they can deny themselves during the 40 days known as “lent.”  Join us through following the spiritual disciplines, participating in worship, engaging in a small group, and carrying our cross for the next 40 days until we all celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter.

In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn

Please click for a [SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES WORKSHEET] you may use for your growth and edification.

*Pastor Paul and Pastor Laura will be leading Ash Wednesday worship alongside our CROSSROADS youth praise team at the Lakeville Campus from 6:30-7:30.  Pastor Deb Marzahn will be leading worship at the Inver Grove Heights Campus alongside Lynn Suilman at 6:30.  Community Meals begins at the Lakeville Campus at 5:45.  Children and youth are welcome at both campuses.*


Carry the Cross: It’s Too Heavy

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

Luke 9:23 NIV

We all love to give excuses. I know I do.  Recently it snowed some heavy wet stuff and I was out shoveling. As I was giving thanks to God for sharing manna from heaven, one of my children approached. I was relieved to think I was going to get some help.  I handed the shovel off and started to work with the ice chipper so I could actually see the sidewalk.  After about two shovel fulls I heard the comment – “This stuff is too heavy and it is too cold out.”  I had a few excuses of my own to add so we went inside for hot chocolate.

Jesus challenged his followers that they were to “deny themselves daily, pick up their cross and follow him.”  Yet, like me and some of us, they were full of excuses.  Many of the crowds that had been following Jesus liked him for the miracles he performed and all the healings he had done.  They were excited to get free food and hear great storytelling. But as Jesus approaches Jerusalem he begins to talk more about the cost of discipleship.  Soon the large crowds dispersed and the true followers emerged.  Many of us claim we want to follow Jesus, but we don’t necessarily want to deny ourselves. We come up with a list of excuses of why we can’t read God’s Word, why attending worship is difficult or why we don’t want to join a small group to learn more about Jesus.  The season of Lent is a reminder that for 40 Days we also need to pick up our cross. The cross is not convenient. The cross is not a symbol of glory. The cross is a symbol of denial and sacrifice. How will you carry your cross the next 40 days?

In Christ’s service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn


Serving With a Purpose

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field…. The seventy-two returned with joy”.  
Luke 10:1, 2, 17 NIV

This last week I took time to drive bus to Mission Mexico where I have been going every year since 1993. I was contacted by a Christian school and a bus charter service because I was a licensed coach bus driver with a passport and experience in Mexico. Since our church had to cancel our trip this year I decided to help.  It was interesting to be “bus driver Paul” rather than “Pastor Paul” the trip leader.

Little-by-little the group asked clarifying questions about me and discerned that I had gifts beyond just driving bus.  First, they realized I liked praying so I was asked to pray. Later they asked if I would lead a devotion so I agreed and taught on three parables of lost things. One girl told me she was amazed that a bus driver had such in depth knowledge of Scripture.  Some song leaders saw me playing guitar one day and asked if I could help lead the music. Who am I to turn down an opportunity to teach another youth group the song, You Are My Brother, You Are My Friend? One of the participants found out I had a website called, PaulMarzahn.com and discovered I was a church consultant and began asking numerous questions about some troubles they were having at their church.

By the end of the week I was even helping teach a science class on the power of atmospheric pressure. I always feel blessed when I can serve. I feel especially blessed when I can utilize the gifts and abilities God has given me.

I have discussed on several occasions about the importance of serving where God is calling you using the gifts that God has given you. We affirm the Saddleback Church acrostic, SHAPE which reminds all of us that we are to serve according to our ministry shape. Our shape is defined as:

= Spiritual Gifts – Discovering and using the gifts given to you by the power of the Holy Spirit.
H = Heart – Following your passion for a ministry area or people group.
A = Abilities – Looking at your natural talents and abilities as a way to serve others.
= Personality – Recognizing how God wired you makes a difference in where you serve.
E = Experience – Knowledge, education, and life experiences help you make a kingdom impact.

My prayer for you this week is that you may discover and utilize your God-given SHAPE to serve. May you experience JOY like the disciples of Jesus when you take the time to serve.

In Christ’s Service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn

Identify with Jesus

Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.”
Luke 9:18-20 NIV
The Academy Awards are Sunday night and the world will turn in to see who won a coveted Oscar award. To receive an award is to be recognized by Hollywood that you have finally made it. You are superior at your craft of acting or producing. The acceptance speeches at the awards are either incredible or incredibly boring. Some recite a long list of thank you’s until they are ushered off the stage with the sound of orchestra music. Others are speechless or overwhelmed. Some like Halle Berry cry and others like Cuba Gooding junior start by thanking God and family. To be announced on the stage is to be declared significant in the eyes of our modern culture.

“Who do you say I am?” is at the key to our identity. For some their identity is in what achievements or awards they have won. For some their identity is in what they do. For some their identity is in their net worth. Jesus has no achievements, significant job or finances. Yet, who he was was came not from these things but from who God claimed him to be. Peter is one of the first to proclaim that Jesus is the Messiah – The Christ. Later Peter, James and John accompany Jesus up a mountain where Moses and Elijah make an appearance. Known as the Mount of Transfiguration this is where the voice of God states, “This is my son. Listen to him.”

I don’t know about you but I can barely remember last year’s Oscar winners. In my thirty plus years of watching the Academy Awards I remember a handful of significant moments. Yet, the moment that Jesus was proclaimed the Messiah his title was etched into eternity. How do you claim your identity? What is your identity in relationship to Christ?

Cultivating the Soil

While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.” When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
Luke 8:4-8
Everytime I walk out my door in Lakeville I think of our farm in Waterville. When we landscaped our house we went down to our farm and carried large rocks from our fields rather than purchase them. I remember growing up “picking rock.”

Because of the ice age and glaciers, our family farm was blessed with an abundance of rock.  My job was to glean the fields of these rock each spring and fall. The rocks seemed to return each season without fail and were peskier than any weeds. Little did I know that someday these rocks would be of value.  I have seriously considered doing my whole yard in rock just to cut down on mowing and watering.  My neighbors may have some thoughts on this.

Besides picking rock, we did a number of steps each year to improve our yield of crops. Preparation of the soil was a big deal. Cultivation was a series of steps or processes to make the soil ready for the seed. We would often plow (or chisel plow) in the fall to break up the soil and roots to rot over the winter. Fertilizer, potash and other nutrients are added to the soil. Then we disk it up again in the spring to break it down even more. These repetitive bouts of digging up the soil exposing organic material to the soil profile to help promote good crop growth. Airing the soil allows for good root growth and helps break up the manure and other fertilizer throughout the soil. In other words, cultivation helps to grow better crops.

In that same way, cultivating the soil of faith helps produce better disciples.  The task of each Christian is to share seeds of faith. We do that by cultivating friendships, dialoguing about spiritual matters and inviting our friends to small group, worship and other Christian activities. Cultivating helps strengthen our faith and allows us to share healthy seeds of faith with others.

In Christ’s Service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn

Choose Friends Carefully |

“After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:27,28)

I remember when I first started at Hamline University. It was a huge difference from my small town of Waterville. In Waterville I grew up with the same 62 kids. I had to choose close friends, but basically everyone in my class was my friend. I can think of very few with which I did not have an affinity or some close connection. I had my band friends, choir friends, drama friends, football-basketball-baseball-track friends, FFA/4-H friends and church friends.

But in college it was completely different. There were more students at Hamline then in my entire home town. I was no longer a big fish in a small pond but a small fish in a big pond. I also realized that many of the values of my small town were not prevalent in the metro area. For the first time in my life I had to think about who I wanted to befriend. I spent time with everyone in my dorm, but soon realized that many did not have a Christian worldview. They choose happiness over holiness.

They were more concerned about entertainment than evangelism. I started to find friends that held similar beliefs and encouraged me in my faith. I joined “Campus Crusade for Christ” and developed deep spiritual friendships. I also started a job as a youth pastor and Asbury Church became my new connection to deeper friends. I started to base my friendships on my values and not on proximity. Too many times we consider someone a friend based on spending time together. True friendship is based on much more than that.

Jesus chose his friends not because of who they were but how they would respond. Jesus did not choose the wisest, smartest or even the most religious. He chose those hungry for the reign of God. He chose those who wanted to live a better life. He was not friends with most his fellow clergy known as the “pharisees” or “sadducees.” He befriended those who the church of his day considered “sinners.” Yet, Jesus reached out to tax collectors who stole from others, violent zealots who would kill a Roman if given an opportunity and even women who were considered “unclean.” Rabbi Jesus encouraged them to walk close to him and learn from him as a friend. Jesus the friend of sinners changed the world because of his radical message of love and reconciliation.

In Christ’s Service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn

Claim the Mission |

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18, 19 NIV) 

I’ve been a big fan of Mission Impossible since I was a young boy. I loved the old TV series. Every week they would get into trouble and get out of trouble to fulfill their mission. Some way or another through change of disguise or switch of bags they would ultimately get the bad guy. The new movie series with Tom Cruise has a similar drama to it. Both the TV series and the movie series have a common element: the mission. “Your mission should you choose to  is…”

Jesus had an impossible mission. Yet, Jesus claimed his mission. He presented his mission for everyone to hear. Jesus shared that he was going to take care of the poor, the least, the lost and the left behind. We should all have a similar mission.

Former Vice President and Governor of Minnesota, Hubert Humphrey, emphasized the importance of caring for the edges of society. “The true moral test of humanity is how it treats those in the dawn of life — the children; those who are in the twilight of life — the aged; and those who are in the shadow of life — the sick, the needy, the poor.” May we all claim the mission of Jesus.

In Christ’s Love and service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn