Weekly Devotion

Better Together | Through Encouragement

“Therefore if you have any ENCOURAGEMENT from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.”
Philippians ‭2:1-2 ‭NIV‬‬
We live in a challenging perfectionist society where we are in a quest for “zero defect.” We call it the “Rat Race”. We are surrounded by an overwhelming number of fake and often unrealistic finish lines: If our body looks a certain way, if we drive a certain car, if we live at a particular address or socialize with these exclusive people, then we have won the race. Because of these unrealistic expectations, it is not unusual for people to feel irrelevant, overwhelmed, discouraged and depressed. But when challenges and setbacks come into our lives, we can be encouragers. Paul encouraged his churches and shared a message of encouragement particularly to the people of Phillipi. If we want to be like the Apostle Paul, here are a few modern phrases of encouragement we can offer:
“You’re doing a great job even though you think no one notices.”
“Don’t worry, you may have missed it this time, but you can try again.”
“I really believe you can do it – even if you don’t believe in yourself.”
“Great Job! Thanks for the hard work!”
“I know it’s a big challenge, but I’m praying for you.”
“You’re not alone – I’ll be here for you!”
“I will always love you! It doesn’t matter if you try and fail.”
You can probably think of more encouraging phrases. Feel free to share some with me 🙂 The secret is to find ways to encourage our loved ones with notes, calls, cards, verses, emails, snap chats or instant messages. Give someone this week a pat on the back, a word of recognition, prayer support or a look that says, “I believe in you!” In a society where people are quick to criticize and condemn, let’s let our mouths speak differently. May we this week share encouragement with others. May we be a people of a God that reminds the world that we are “better together.”
In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul

Questions To Consider:
1.What is one negative thing someone said or did to me this week. Why did it discourage me?

2.When is a time recently that someone encouraged you? How did that change your day?

3.When is a time recently you encouraged someone else? What did you say or do?

4.Name three people you should encourage this week in your life.

Game Changers | Fourth & Long

All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.
‭‭Galatians ‭2:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

In high school and junior high, I played football. In the glory days of youth there are many memories of sports moments that were “game changers.” One play could change the entire outcome of the game. I recall one game where we were behind and the coach called in an unusual play. It is called a “flea-flicker” pass. It was fourth down and long yards to get a first down. I threw the ball to my wide receiver and friend of mine named Tim. He pretended to run with it but instead stopped and then proceeded to stand still as everyone ran towards him. Meanwhile since the defense is focused on the wide receiver, I can sneak down field undetected. I ran as fast as I could and deep down the field as I could run. My friend Tim, at the last minute, planted his feet and threw the ball as far down the field as he could possibly throw. Somehow, in this crazy play, I was able to catch the ball and waltz into the end zone unscathed. The play was a “Game Changer”, as we went ahead in the score with only seconds left on the clock. We took a calculated risk but the payoff changed the game.

Caring for the poor is a game changer. It changes us from the inside out. It also changes those we share our resources with. It is a sacrifice of time and money to do local outreach like CROSSROADS. We make sandwiches for the homeless, and also bring food to schools through The Sheridan Story ministry to help kids who suffer from food scarcity. This last Saturday, I was at the Grocery Giveaway at CROSSROADS of Inver Grove Heights. I prayed with a woman who was struggling with medical bills. She was grateful for the food because her husband had his legs amputated recently and could not support the family any more. She shared with me that the groceries she took every month have helped her and her children tremendously. Our church has been a game changer in her life. The Apostle Paul challenges the Galatians to be “game changers” by remembering the poor and helping them. Paul himself collected many offerings to help widows and orphans who were struggling. It is a reminder for us to care for the least, the lost and the left behind. May we be game changers this week as we remember the poor. May we continue at CROSSROADS to reach out to the least, the lost and left behind.

In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul

Game Changers | Free Agent Pickup

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭1:5‬ ‭NLT‬‬
In a sport franchise athletes were once on a team for life. They signed up with a city or a state team and played their entire career with that team.  A franchise player was one who dedicated their career to a single team.  Later in the sport’s world, players began shopping around for better opportunities and coaches began looking at ways to increase their talent pool. The name “free agent” became the term used because they were not committed to one team. A team or franchise picked up a free agent and blended them into their team. In essence, they adopted them into their sports family even though they started in another sports family.
God loves us so much and wants us to be a part of His family. Paul uses the term adoption because we are not biological children of God but born of the Spirit of God. Paul reminds us it gives God great pleasure to be one of His children. And just like biological children we will receive an inheritance from our Heavenly Father.  God chooses us as free agents to join His team (family) but he doesn’t force us. He simply offers the invitation. May we all recognize this day that we are children of God. May we all receive our Kingdom inheritance and share the inheritance with others.

Questions To Consider:

  1. When you hear the phrase “child of God” what does that mean to you?
  2. What is your definition of adoption? How does one incorporate a non-biological son or daughter into the family?
  3. What is our inheritance as children of God?

Game Changers | #1 Draft Pick

All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.  ‭‭ Galatians‬ ‭2:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬
According to bleacherreport.com the draft crests the biggest game changers in the NFL.
“The 2019 NFL draft is loaded with game-changer prospects, much like last year’s class was. A year ago, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield stumped defenses with his mobility and arm once he made his NFL debut. Quarterback Lamar Jackson lifted the Baltimore Ravens to the playoffs with his rushing acumen. New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley caused defenders to miss as often as he bulldozed over them. Shockingly, explosive pass-rushers should keep even calm-and-collected veterans like Tom Brady up at night before games. The natural blend of talent, athleticism and upside make the prospects the biggest game-changing players of this year’s draft class.”
Number one draft picks are the best of the best. They make all the difference in the game. Football is still a team sport but a high-performing athlete can make the difference between winning and losing. In the Christian movement, the Apostle Paul was a “game changer.” Paul began reaching out to communities outside the region of Jerusalem. He also focused on reaching gentiles instead of just Jews. Paul also helped plant churches and raise up new pastoral leadership. Paul’s letters were game changing because they inspired leaders but also instructed them on the basic doctrines of the faith.  Jesus was THE game changer but Paul was key to spreading the good news of the kingdom throughout the world.
We need to remember that we are called to be game changers as well. We are called to change the lives of our families by strengthening one another in faith. We are called to witness to our friends for Jesus. As a church, we are also called to change the lives of our community by reaching out to the poor. May we all see ourselves as number one draft picks chosen by God to change the world.
In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul


For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭10:3-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬
The testimonies in our UNPLUGGED worship series have been powerful. Lives are being transformed at CROSSROADS and God is answering prayers. As part of this series, we have been discussing the struggles we all face in life. A constant battle rages between the flesh and the spirit. Our spirit desires to commune with God; to pray, praise and worship, but our desires and appetites are constantly bombarded by images on TV, movies, and social media. We are so plugged into worldly activities, we become unplugged from God. We have information coming at us from every side and we seldom prioritize time to do things that feed our spirit. We often use our time for work or entertainment rather than for spiritual food which comes through worship, prayer, praise, reading Scripture, or serving others. One child was making sandwiches on Sunday after worship and she was precious. She said: “I am so glad we came to church today so we could make sandwiches to help hungry people instead of going to the fair.” (The State Fair is not evil and we went last Sunday after worship. But this young person probably heard a discussion at home of “should we skip worship today and go to the fair instead?”) The parents instilled an amazing value in this child. Worship and serving are more important than entertainment.
The enemy of our souls knows that he cannot touch our spirit because the Holy Spirit lives there. Instead, he tries to appeal to our natural senses. He draws us by making things look, sound, feel, taste, and smell nice so we can be drawn away from the reality of what is important, and that is our relationship with God and God’s people. Often we don’t recognize that the battle is won or lost in our day to day decisions. Long before we stop attending worship, or fall away from a Christian community, we make decisions that isolate us. If you have been away from worship for a while, I would encourage you to reconnect. Fill your heart with the presence of God to help you in your everyday struggles of life. Fuel yourself with the truth of Scripture to help you in times of trouble. I want to encourage you to take time every day to feed your spirit in God’s Word. I hope to see you this Sunday at CROSSROADS.
In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul


Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. ‭‭
2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:17‬ ‭RSV‬‬

One way to get “unplugged” is to try something new. Who doesn’t love a new beginning? So often, I look back on life and see the many new beginnings God has given me, and it reminds me of God’s persistent love. I have made so many mistakes in my life and yet God continues to shape me and mold me in the image of Christ. Many of us would like change to come to our lives, but if we are honest, we would prefer change to happen with a quick fix. For me, I have done many years of fad diets. They only work for a short period of time. To make lasting change, I had to change how I thought about food and exercise. “The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”―Albert Einstein

Some issues in our lives can be deep-rooted from years of a flawed belief pattern. The only way change can come is to first change our thought pattern. I can tell you from personal experience that most of the lasting changes that happened in my life all started with a change of mind. In my mind I see God’s preferred future, and then my behavior adjusts accordingly. The Apostle Paul admonishes us in the letter to the Corinthians to renew our minds. Here lies the key to remaining a changed person. If we keep our thought life synchronized with God’s Word, we will be stable in holding our position as the “New Creation!” May you renew your mind this week as you reflect on God’s plan for your life. May you become a new person in the image of Christ.
In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Paul
Questions to Consider:
1. Why do you think we develop bad habits?
2. When is a time in your life when you have changed your thinking? How did that change your habits?
3. What are some things you would like to change in your life? Where do you need a new beginning?

Emotionally Healthy Christians – Pursuit of Happiness (Unhealthy Emotions)

“…and especially so because you are well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently.” Acts‬ ‭26:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬


Psychologists have discovered happiness accumulates. If we have a particularly happy day, it will boost our well-being over the next two days. If we have a particularly unhappy day, it carries over for the next 4 days! “Chronic Happiness” is defined as 3 happy days for every bad day. People who demonstrated chronic happiness were better physically in terms of stress responses, the immune system, and cardiovascular health. Talk about healthy emotions! Happy people are also more effective at their work. In a research study of physicians, physicians did better on diagnosis and treatment plans on their happier days, and had the best patient satisfaction scores. When we are happy, we make more quality decisions and exhibit more creativity! However, most of us don’t know what causes unhappiness and what fosters happiness! (By the way, clergy are no more or less happy than the population at large.)


The founders of our country drafted the Declaration of Independence so we could pursue happiness. This July 4th read the entire document. You may be surprised by what it contains. The most popular phrase is a reminder of how the original 13 Colonies wanted to be free to engage in, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Freedom was important to them.


Psychologists have learned happiness is often a matter of perspective and not actual events. Some people can suffer a great deal like the Apostle Paul did and still be happy. Psychologists believe you can even redeem a terrible day by ending the day on a high note. Paul was imprisoned and yet while in chains spent his evening praising God. He became shipwrecked and yet his pursuit of God allowed him to experience happiness in the midst of strife. May you be like Paul and allow God to bring happiness to your day. May you accumulate days of  “Chronic Happiness,” so you may share your joy with others.


Questions To Consider:

1. How do you best experience “happiness? What activities make you happy? What people make you happy?


2. What do you do to bring happiness to others?


3. Would you say you are in a state of “Chronic Happiness?” Why or why not?


In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn

Emotionally Healthy Christians – Emotional Journey

“When they arrived, he said to them: ‘You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents.’” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭20:18-20 ‭NIV‬‬

Whether we realize it or not we are all on a spiritual journey. We move in and out of relationships with others. We move along the path of life also experiencing an emotional journey. Some would even call it a roller coaster of faith. Our spiritual and emotional journey goes through ups and downs, sharp curves and sudden stops. It is scary at times and sometimes unpredictable.


Saul (also known as Paul) had such a journey. He started out with a different name and job description. He went from persecuting Christians to becoming a fully devoted follower of Jesus. Paul experiences extremes lows of being persecuted, jailed, stoned, and tortured. Throughout these mission trips, Paul suffered multiple beatings from opposing groups. In Lystra, he was stoned by a group of Jews so badly that they left him for dead. The Apostle Paul mysteriously alludes to “the marks of Jesus” on his body in Galatians 6:17. Some scholars believe he refers here to the scars left by this beatings. Paul experienced an emotional and spiritual roller coaster that eventually led to death. Paul (on the same day as St. Peter) paid the ultimate price for his Christian faith: martyrdom. He was beheaded outside the walls of Rome on June 29, 67 A.D.


Each of us experience an emotional and spiritual journey similar to the Apostle Paul. We may not have been tortured for our faith, but may have experienced times of persecution. We have also experienced extreme emotional highs and times of joy. Like Paul, we too are called to embrace the journey and realize God is with us. God is with us in our joys and in our sorrows. God is with us in all we do. May we live our lives in a way that glorifies God in the journey. Questions To Consider:

  1. Describe one of your favorite journeys when you were younger? More recently?
  1. What are some of your spiritual highs and spiritual lows?
  1. Have you ever suffered because of your faith? Why or why not?
In Christ’s love and service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn

Emotionally Healthy Christians – Social Awareness

“God knows people’s hearts, and He confirmed that He accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for He cleansed their hearts through faith.” – Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭15:8-9 ‭NLT‬‬
Empathy and acceptance are key factors in growing as a mature Christian. Some are given the spiritual gift of “mercy” and are inclined toward empathy. Others develop social awareness over time as we mature in our faith. “To be empathetic means we are able to identify and understand others’ emotions i.e. imagining ourselves in someone else’s position.” (Wikipedia) 
Some of the benefits of social awareness or empathy helps us with an understanding of how an individual feels and why they behave in a certain way. As a result, our compassion and our ability to help someone increases because we respond genuinely to concerns. Being empathetic shows those around us that we care. It is a great Christian witness to our love of God and others. Peter in this passage of Scripture is sharing with the leaders of the church the importance of empathizing with non-Jewish believers. For example, an adult male probably is not excited about joining a faith where they need to be circumcised. Peter helps the Jews understand God does not want to place additional burdens on new believers. 
Here are some practical tips to help us grow in social awareness or empathy:
  1. Practice listening to family members, friends, and fellow employees without interrupting them.
  2. Observe those around us and try to gauge how they might be feeling.
  3. Seek first to understand then be understood.
  4. To communicate our empathy we should keep our body language open and regulate our voice to show our sincerity.
Come join us this Sunday as we learn more about how to grow in faith and awareness of those around us.

Questions To Consider:

  1. Why do you think there were tensions in the early church between Jews and Gentiles? How were they resolved?
  1. What are some tensions in the church today? How do you feel they can best be resolved?
  1. On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate yourself on social awareness? 
  1. Of the four tips for growth, which one would you like to work on this week? 
In Christ’s love and service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn

Fathers Day

“So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said, ‘Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed.’” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭27:27‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Father’s matter. In a world that seems to downplay the importance of fatherhood, we must understand men make a difference in the lives of their children, particularly in matters of faith. Like Jacob we all seek our Father’s blessing.  A large and important study conducted by the Swiss government, published in 2000, revealed some astonishing facts with regard to the generational transmission of faith and religious values. (The full title of the study is: “The Demographic Characteristics of the Linguistic and Religious Groups in Switzerland” by Werner Haug and Phillipe Warner of the Federal Statistical Office, Neuchatel. The study appears in Volume 2 of Population Studies No. 31, a book titled The Demographic Characteristics of National Minorities in Certain European States, edited by Werner Haug and others, published by the Council of Europe Directorate General III, Social Cohesion, Strasbourg, January 2000.) Sounds like a page-turner right? Since this report, similar studies have been conducted in the US with like results.
In short, the Swiss study reveals, “It is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children.”

The study reports:

  1. If both father and mother attend regularly, 33 percent of their children will end up as regular churchgoers, and 41 percent will end up attending irregularly. Only a quarter of their children will end up not practicing at all.
  2. If the father is irregular and mother regular, only 3 percent of the children will subsequently become regulars themselves, while a further 59 percent will become irregulars. Thirty-eight percent will be lost.
  3. If the father is non-practicing and mother regular, only 2 percent of children will become regular worshippers, and 37 percent will attend irregularly. Over 60 percent of their children will be lost completely to the church!
In short, if a father does not go to church-no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions-only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). One of the reasons suggested for this distinction is children tend to take their cues about domestic life from Mom while their conceptions of the world outside come from Dad. If Dad takes faith in God seriously, then the message to their children is God should be taken seriously.
This confirms the essential role of the father as a spiritual leader, which I would argue is true fatherhood. Fathers are to love their wives as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5). Fathers are to care for their children as our Father in heaven cares for us. Finally, fathers play a primary role in teaching their children the truth about reality. Fathers are essential for nurturing kids in a biblical view of reality and a faith in Jesus Christ.
This Father’s Day give thanks if you had a father who helped you grow in faith. If you did not, remember you have a Heavenly Father who loves you very much. Also, if you are a father, examine how you are instilling values in your children and what they are learning from you. May we all receive blessings from God the Father and pass along those blessings to others.
In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn