Weekly Devotion
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

All I Want For Christmas – Back to Normal Life

“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” – ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭2:11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

 

Well, it is all over: the Christmas rush. The gatherings. The food. The shopping. The parties. The exchanges. The blur of the Christmas season. Now it is the tough part of clean up. Exchanging gifts. Watching kids or grandkids home from school. Emotional joys and concerns as life returns to a more normal routine.

 

Mary and Joseph had their baby. They completed the census. The had their party with the shepherds (and probably other relatives who were their for the census). They were getting back to this new normal then the Magi show up. Wise men from the east show up just when they were getting a baby routine going. After the bustle quieted down they were reminded this was not only a miraculous birth but a miraculous child. The Magi bring gifts and worship the Christ child who was born as prophets foretold.  

 

Sometimes after the bustle of Christmas we have to be reminded of the significance of the event. I always am less concerned with Easter Sunday worship attendance or Christmas Eve worship attendance. The believers who come the weeks following are ones who come to worship after the fanfare has gone. The ones who live out the love of the Jesus story are the believers who continue to worship him.

 

“When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone, when the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with their flocks, the work of Christmas begins: to find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner, to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among the people, to make music in the heart.” – Howard Thurman

May the Christmas story continue to live in your heart all year long.
 
In Christ’s love and service,
 

Pastor Paul Marzahn



All I Want For Christmas – Unexpected Love

Luke 2:10 – “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you the most unexpected news ever announced and it is for everyone.”
 
I’ll never forget the first time a sweet little lady came to my door to wish me a happy birthday. It was 1990 and I had just started in Rosemount as full-time ordained clergy. Not only had she remembered my birthday, but she brought me a gift of homemade bread to celebrate. I pulled the bread out of the ziplock bag and it was no ordinary bread. It was in the shape of a bear with eyes, ears, and even a belly button. It looked almost too good to eat. It was a tremendous unexpected gift of love.
 
 
Pastor Charlie, my Senior Pastor and friend, walked by my desk later that day. “Oh, I see you got a loaf of ‘Bonnie’s Bear Bread’. It is the best bread because it is baked with love.” Charlie was right. It was some of the best bread I had ever eaten. My daughter Bekah liked it because the little paws of the body were just the right size for her to eat.
 
 
Later on that summer, this same bread woman offered to babysit our children for FREE. As  young parents with a one year old and a three year old it was a blessing to even get out to McDonalds once a week. That was a big adventure to pack up the kids and enjoy happy meals with Ronald in the playland (back in the day when they still had the ball pits). Now this new friend in our lives gave us a gift certificate for real food, at a real restaurant without the kids.  Talk about unexpected love. We were overwhelmed. Deb’s response was: “Can we leave right now or do we have to schedule a special time?”
 
 
Maybe you know a Christian servant like Bonnie. Bonnie is a person filled with God’s love. She loves Jesus so much she shares His love in tangible ways everywhere she goes. She doesn’t need to sign up for a church outreach event. She is an outreach team on her own.
 
 
Have you ever received a gift of unexpected love? Have you ever shared an act of unexpected love with someone else? Today’s Scripture reminds us Jesus came as a form of God’s love on earth. The shepherds and others were surprised by the coming of the Messiah in such a manner. Jesus reminded them and us the heart of God is filled with love. At a time when the people thought the Messiah would come in the form of a powerful soldier, He came instead as the Prince of Peace. When they thought Christ should be an anointed king, He revealed Himself as a humble servant. Jesus shared unexpected love instead of expected rules which helped people to remember the God of Abraham, Moses, and David as a loving God.    
 
 
I don’t know why, but I am always amazed by God’s love and grace. I don’t deserve it and yet God gives it freely. I mess up time and time again and yet God forgives me. I am blessed to come to church every week and receive a healthy dose of God’s love through worship and the community of Christ. I am so frequently blessed by doses of God’s unexpected love. By the way, Bonnie stopped in again yesterday on my birthday. Every year it still seems to hit me as unexpected surprise when Bonnie shows up with her bear bread on my birthday. Instead of Bekah it is now my grandson who likes to eat the bear’s little paws.
 
 
 
In Christ’s love and service,
 
 
Pastor Paul Marzahn


All I Want For Christmas – Joy

“As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” L‭uke‬ ‭1:44-45‬ ‭NIV‬‬
 

Elizabeth had been basking in the miracle of a surprise pregnancy for about six months when Mary arrived at her house. Mary had hurried to visit her older relative Elizabeth, as she processed all that was happening in her world. When Mary entered the home of Zacharias and Elizabeth, the baby boy within the womb of Elizabeth jumped for JOY! The instant John, although unborn, sensed that he was in the presence of Jesus the Messiah, he leaped for JOY!

John, still in his mother’s womb and unable to see Jesus with his natural eyes, knew he was in the presence of the Lord. There was only one possible response to the presence of the Lord, and that was JOY! Elizabeth expressed to Mary this was no soft little nudging she felt from the baby within – it was a gargantuan leap! John was exploding with JOY at being in the presence of Jesus! The spirit of John was responding to the Spirit of Jesus Christ where there is always fullness of JOY.

When Jesus walks into our world, homes, and lives we also experience JOY. Our heart should begin to jump just like John’s. Having our children home for Christmas, receiving mountains of gifts, decorating the house, or eating fancy culinary concoctions…these things add to our JOY. Yet they can’t substitute for the JOY we receive from a relationship with Jesus. This Christmas make room for His presence. May we spend time worshiping Him at church with friends and family and experience the JOY of the season.

 

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn



All I Want For Christmas – Peace

“And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” – Matthew 2:11

 

From the time the wise men brought gifts to Jesus, Christmas has been a time of giving. We give gifts to our loved ones, the less fortunate, the church, favorite charities, family, friends, and even our pets. Unfortunately, sometimes we concentrate so much on the gifts we want to give and receive from one another we miss the special gifts Christmas has for us. Christmas has amazing gifts for us, but we need the miracle of God’s grace to see, feel, hear, and celebrate them.

 

Many of these gifts are intangible gifts we receive by having a faith relationship with Jesus Christ. These gifts are experiencing part of the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth. We can experience HOPE for the future and PEACE on earth in the here and now.  When we focus on the Kingdom we experience JOY to the world in relevant ways. The biggest gift we receive at Christmas is the fact that LOVE conquers all through the incarnation and sacrificial love of Jesus Christ. May the greatest gift you receive this year come from the hope, peace, joy, and love of Jesus Christ. May the birth of Jesus be the tangible reminder a relationship with Him is all we really need for Christmas.

 

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn



All I Want For Christmas – Hope

“She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:21

Have you ever noticed people live up to or down to their names? I knew a woman named Sunny from Rotary Club. She lived up to her name as she was always bright and cheerful. We have a young teen named “Sophia” (Sophie) at CROSSROADS. In Greek, the name “Sophia” means wisdom and this young lady is extremely wise. I knew a man named John Wesley Smith and he was indeed a fine Methodist preacher. The importance of names is a powerful and significant theme in the Bible. The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible states it this way, “The giving of personal names in ancient Israel was not merely for the purpose of providing a distinct label for an individual but was common for expressing religious convictions associated with the birth of a child or a future. For example, the name Moses literally means, ‘drawn up from the water.’”

The name Yeshua (Joshua) in Hebrew, or Jesus in Greek, literally means savior or the Lord’s helper. Joshua also means wall breaker. Remember what happened in Jericho? The good news is Christ lived up to His name. Christ is our Savior. Christ is our Redeemer. He is a wall breaker that gets rid of division and reminds us we are all a part of God’s family. He makes us all one.  He offers HOPE in a hopeless world. This Christmas season, continue to look for hope remembering God sent His son as Savior to bring hope through His name. May God bless you this Christmas season with hope for you and those you love.

In Christ’s love and service,

Paul Marzahn



I Love My Church – I Am Thankful For CROSSROADS

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—” ‭‭

1 Timothy‬ ‭2:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬

 

As Thanksgiving Day approaches many are pondering all they are grateful and thankful for. Both Thanksgiving and thankful hashtags will be attached to millions of images for social media to peruse. But there is one image I pray is at the forefront of many of our minds as we approach Thanksgiving: Christ, the Savior of the world, dying for you and me, creating a way. A way for us to not only lay hold of the promise of Heaven after our earthly journey is over, but a way for us to usher in God’s Kingdom here on earth. I pray we are grateful when we see God’s Kingdom on display. I love CROSSROADS CHURCH because I am blessed to see God at work through our community of believers.

 

Every now and then I get choked up because I get feedback at how much CROSSROADS is making a difference in Lakeville, Minneapolis, and Inver Grove Heights. I was helping at Grocery Giveaway this month and I helped a woman bring groceries to her car. She was an older woman in her 90’s. She said CROSSROADS has literally saved her life. She was struggling to feed her extended family, many who are ill or on disability. Other food shelves rejected giving her enough food because the other family members were too ill to get to the food shelf themselves. She was so grateful for CROSSROADS because we trusted her with ample food for her and her extended family. Now they are getting healthy and are able to get back to work. I prayed with her at the end of our conversation and I loved her response, “How can I be praying for you, Pastor Paul and CROSSROADS CHURCH?”

 

I am so blessed and many of you are as well. May you share your blessings this Thanksgiving season with others. May you not only recognize God in your midst on Thanksgiving but throughout the year. May we all move from Thanksgiving people to a “Thanksliving” community of Christ followers.

 

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn



I Love My Church – I Love How Generous We Are

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭6:38‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I was blessed on Sunday at CROSSROADS to listen to my good friend Pastor Don Eslinger teach on generosity. I loved his story about a family who gave a beggar needing food their leftovers to eat. They were later doing the family budget and their young son was listening. The mom and dad discussed how much they needed for housing, food, and transportation. They then mentioned they could give the leftover money after bills to God. Their young son asked, “Is God a beggar?” The mom replied, “of course not!” So the son asked, “then why are we giving God our leftovers?” Seeing generosity through the eyes of our children can be powerful.
 
Why do we give God our “first fruits?” The pattern in Scripture is we are asked to give God our best. We are asked to give the first part of our harvest (or income.) The joy of giving far surpasses the fleeting happiness of holding on to our things. Giving recalibrates our hearts towards loving God, rather than holding on to temporary things. Jesus said, “it is better to give than to receive.” Could it be if we say yes to giving, our lives will be filled with more purpose and joy?
 
I know in my life tithing to the church has brought me joy as I see how my investment has changed lives. I have witnessed children learn important values through our Kids Own Worship and CROSSTRAINING ministries. I have experienced youth who have contemplated suicide and have found new hope in Christ. CROSSROADS has helped save their lives. I have seen CROSSROADS ministry strengthen marriages, counsel hurting people, pray for healing, and encourage parents. Many at CROSSROADS have grown spiritually through our dynamic worship and our life-changing small groups. I am so blessed to be a part of the CROSSROADS family. I love my church!
 
In Christ’s love and service,
Pastor Paul Marzahn


I Love My Church – I Love Our Youth

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” – Hebrews‬ ‭11:1-2‬ ‭NIV
 

The Apostles’ Creed begins with the words “I believe in.” The Creed is an affirmation of the Christian story. It affirms the basic doctrines of our faith. The Creed is more than just an individual statement; it’s both personal and corporate. As you read and reflect on the Creed you are surrounded by “a large cloud of witnesses” who have gone before you (Heb. 12:1), and you identify with the Universal Church.

In the early church, uttering the word “I believe” meant identifying in the closest possible way with the gospel. When believers said the Creed, they were identifying themselves as citizens of a different kingdom—the kingdom of God. This meant, and still means today, that believers could face persecution, alienation, and even death. The Creed is far more than a list of propositions; it’s the summary of the faith that has been practiced throughout church history.  The scriptural truths contained in the Creed help us operate from good theology, with the knowledge that our faith is rooted in a rich history that spans past, present, and future. The lines of the Creed aren’t mere words. They convey the essence of what we confess and believe as the body of Christ.

This Sunday our youth and young adults will be leading worship at the Lakeville Campus. One youth at Lakeville is confirming his faith and sharing what he believes about God. Our Youth Directors Grace Dietz and Anthony Perry will be sharing a special message on the basics of faith. The Inver Grove Heights Campus is doing an ecumenical Service with New Heights Church with a luncheon following. Pastor Dan Schauer will be sharing the message. All of us will be reciting the Apostles Creed and affirming what we believe. Please read and reflect on the Creed this week in preparation for this Sunday’s worship.
 
Ecumenical Version
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and will come again to judge the living and the dead.
 
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
 

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn



I Love My Church – I Love How We Give

“I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” – ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:18‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I love CROSSROADS CHURCH! I love how people have generous hearts and give generously. When we give generously to God three blessings happen. The first blessing is that we make God smile. Imagine God with a big grin! The Bible says our gifts, given freely, “are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” God loves a cheerful giver and it pleases God to see His children be generous.

A second blessing is we gain a deep sense of personal satisfaction. We are designed for worship, and worshiping with your wallet is perhaps the most sincere form of all. A generous spirit is a good personal indicator of whether or not our faith is real. When a believer is mature in their faith, giving is actually fun! Giving produces joy as a byproduct of living in God’s will.

A final blessing of giving to the Lord is resources are reinvested and make ministry happen. At CROSSROADS we invest money to change lives. Our gifts of money make it possible for the Word of God to touch the more hearts and lives of people both locally and those who live on the other side of the globe. Through relevant worship, discipleship of our youth & children, and impactful outreach we are able to make a difference. Giving makes a real world difference in ushering in the Kingdom of God.

When we give to CROSSROADS, it is our prayer that we will experience the blessings of giving. We pray each of us will realize the joy of giving and see the fruits of life transformation. We pray all of us will give with “glad and sincere hearts” like the believers in the Acts 2 Church.

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn



I Love My Church – All Saints Day

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭12:1‬ ‭NIV‬

Each of us who are part of CROSSROADS CHURCH didn’t end up here by chance. Our parents, grandparents, friends, pastors, spouses, and others have helped to shape our understanding of who God is and helped us to become Christians. I know in my own life I’m usually so busy, I never take time to thank God for working through those “saints of the church” to create and maintain faith in me. Today on “All Saints Day”, I invite you to do just that.

Imagine there are a number of these saints standing around you. Close your eyes for a moment, and put faces on those saints. Remember the ones who “dragged you” to church or youth group. Remember the ones who first opened your eyes to the beauty of reading Scriptures. Think about the ones who took time to listen to you, even when what you had to say wasn’t all that interesting. What pastor first touched your head and your heart? Who first shared what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Reflect on the ones who were there for you when tragedy struck your life or family. What “saints” of the church came alongside you when you needed them most?

Prayer – We give thanks today on this All Saints Day for the Saints of old like Peter, James, John, and Paul. We also give thanks for the modern Saints and in particular for those people who have shaped our own faith. May each of these saints and the many others we lift up in prayer rest in Your eternal loving arms now and forever. Amen.

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn