Weekly Devotion

Community – Unity

“But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭2:9-10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

In the beginning God created everything to be in harmony and unity with each other: man, woman, animals, plants, and Himself. God and Adam spent time together every day and all things were good. Then Adam and Eve disobeyed God, sin entered the world, and now humanity had to deal with Good and Evil. Evil is overcome when God enters into the picture and is in unity with humanity once again through a covenant with Jesus Christ. We see the Biblical principle that there is great power available to do anything when men and women are in unity and even more so if they are in unity with God.

So what destroys unity? Selfishness. Plain and simple. It is impossible to establish unity when someone is looking out for their own interest. Selfishness is a major reason that many Christians and many church’s never experience all that God has for them. The power to live a powerful Christian life and impact the world comes from unity. Divorce and broken relationships happen when we focus on ourselves rather than how we can strengthen our relationships. Paul reminds us in the book of Philippians unity comes from regarding others more important than ourselves. When we have affection and compassion for others God’s fullness comes into our lives. None of us think of ourselves as selfish, but when we look at God’s Word we discover we are. The Apostle Paul also reminds us we need to ask the Spirit to reveal our selfish desires. It is through the Spirit we understand how to experience true unity with God and others.

May the God who loves all remind us to focus on other people’s needs more. May the power of the Holy Spirit help change our priorities today to align with God’s will for unity.  

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn

Community – Saints

1 Corinthians 1:2 “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.”

The Greek word for saints is an interesting one. It is the word “hagios” and means “most holy thing” so a saint is a holy person. But aren’t all humans sinners, even after they are saved? Does God consider believers as saints? Paul, as is his custom, opens his epistles (letters) with greetings to the saints or the set apart or holy ones. They have no inherent holiness, of course, but they are made holy by Jesus’ blood shed for them on the cross.

Paul is not the only one to call Christians saints. The Apostle John calls them saints in the Book of Revelation 14:12 where it is written, “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.” There is a theme found in all of the New Testament verses where a saint is mentioned and it is almost always associated with those who are in Christ or have faith in Christ. Without Christ, being a saint is impossible. With Christ, it is possible. A saint is anyone who has been saved and then they are set apart for holy use.  They are made holy by Christ’s death and shed blood. That is exactly what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:11, “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Without this “washing” by Christ’s blood, we could be no more holy than a cow is made sacred by worship of the false god Baal from 1 Kings 18. The word “saints” and “sanctified” are used frequently in the New Testament when referring to the body of believers, like in 1 Corinthians 1:2 “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ–their Lord and ours.” Here Paul uses the term “holy people,” and “to those sanctified” when referring to the church.

There is no need to await beatification (sainthood achieved) as some faith traditions believe. It doesn’t take ten, twenty, or a hundred years. If you have repented and trusted in Christ, you are a saint of God today, right now! Why would Paul declare to the believers they were saints at the time he was writing to them, while they were still alive, if it was only for the dead? It makes no sense for Paul to write to “the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae” or in Corinth, or at Rome if they were dead! There is nothing in the Bible that teaches someone has to be dead for a certain number of years before they can be referred to as a saint or reach beatification. That is not taught in Scripture. You are a SAINT today if you have placed your faith in Christ. There are only two kinds of people on earth right now, as the late Adrian Rogers said; “there are saints and there are ain’ts.” There are none in the middle. There is no fence anyone can sit on when deciding whether to live out one’s salvation or not. My prayer for you this day is to claim your sainthood and live it out for others to see.

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn

Reset – Reset Our Welcome

“You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
‭‭Leviticus‬ ‭19:34‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭25:35, 40‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I received some feedback the past few weeks from guests I have invited to church.  We have also had guests that have come for baptisms or this last week for the Ordination of Michael Rivera. Feedback I received is that we are a friendly church, but mostly friendly to each other. Greeters say “hi” but beyond that people do not engage much. I found this is common in many churches. CROSSROADS strives to be a place where people feel loved and accepted. Here are some tips if you see someone new hanging around on a Sunday morning.

Hi! I am _____________. Have we met before? I am so glad you are here. Affirm the fact that they showed up for worship. I have heard from numerous CROSSROADS guests who returned because they were simply told “we are glad you’re here.”

Let me help you with that.” If you see someone struggling with umbrellas, young children, diaper bags, purses, and other items, a gesture to hold something for them is a huge positive. Of course, this comment is appropriate for us to help each other as well.

Can I show you where you need to go?” Even in smaller churches like CROSSROADS, guests will not know where to find the nursery, restrooms, and small group meeting areas. You can usually tell when a guest does not know where he or she is to go. Bring them over to Pastor Deb or myself and we are also glad to help show them around.  

Please take my Seat.” This comment came from a member to a young family of five who were trying to find a place to sit together. I was so blessed as a pastor last Sunday to see a member of CROSSROADS give up their seat. Slide away from the aisle or get up and let a guest or guests take a seat particularly if they enter late. It is simple courtesy, but we can get used to sitting in our usual seats.

Let me introduce you to ___________.” The return rate of guests is always higher if they meet other people. Take the opportunity to introduce the guest to one of our pastors, other church staff, and other members of the church. Be sure to wear your nametag so new people can get to know your name easily.

“Come sit with me.” Inviting someone to sit with you shows guests you are invested in them, and gives them a sense of belonging they wouldn’t have if they sat somewhere by themselves. Obviously, use this one with discretion for it’s possible they would prefer to sit elsewhere, but if conversation seems to come easy between you both consider inviting them to sit with you.

Here is my email address or cell phone number. Please let me know if I can help in any way.” Of course, this comment must be used with discretion, but it can be a positive message to a guest to say you are willing to connect.

Would you join us for lunch?” I saved this question for last for two reasons. First, the situation must obviously be appropriate before you offer the invitation. Second, I have seen this approach have the highest guest return rate of any one factor. “Lunch Bunch” does this at Inver Grove Heights Campus quite well. We need to seek ways to let others connect with us and as Scripture tell us to welcome the stranger.

CROSSROADS is an awesome church with amazing people. Let’s all work together to offer the love of Jesus in practical ways to all who enter. Let us do what Jesus commands to heal the sick, share good news of the Kingdom of God and welcome the stranger in our midst.

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn

Reset – Resetting Our Spirit

“When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Peter said, ‘Change your life. Turn to God and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is targeted to you and your children, but also to all who are far away—whomever, in fact, our Master God invites.’”
‭‭Acts‬ ‭2:1-4, 38-39‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Nick Hall wrote a book entitled “RESET: Jesus Changes Everything.” It is a book filled with stories of faith. One talks about the power of the Holy Spirit working in ways we do not understand. When Nick was in college he went on a mission trip to India. He and his team were so excited to be there to do outreach and evangelism. The only problem is it is hard to do outdoor evangelism in pouring down rain. Nick states: “After three consecutive nights of waterworks, poor attendance and soaked dress shoes, our team was ready to throw in the towel. We wondered what we were doing in India anyway. It all felt so pointless…. I asked a local pastor if the people in this area thought their Hindu gods were defeating the Christian God because of all the rain. Our pastor friend turned to me ecstatically and said, ‘People don’t think their gods are defeating yours. Not at all! Word is spreading through the villages that the God of Christians has brought the rain’.” Nick and his team thought God needed their preaching, but all God needed was their presence to promote God’s miracle. God’s Spirit spread the Good News more than any crusade was able to. In the end the rains stopped and over 50,000 people came to know Jesus through their efforts.

In today’s Scripture we see the witness of the early church. Some even call Pentecost our Christian church birthday. The Disciples sought after the gift of the Holy Spirit and received it. The Disciples and all who gathered witnessed the presence and power of God through the Holy Spirit. Some repented and believed. Over 3000 were saved that day. Each of us personally also have the opportunity to receive the Holy Spirit.

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn

Reset – Reset My Relationships

“So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭15:20-21‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The story of the “prodigal son,m” or lost son, is an often told story from the Bible and one of my favorites. It is usually told from a male perspective of a father and two sons and their relationship with each other. The younger brother leaves with his inheritance and squanders his resources with bad choices and immoral living. He is starving when his money runs out so he decides to return home.

The power in the story of the lost son lies in the unexpected ending. Those listening to Jesus tell this story knew full well the younger brother returning to his father deserved to be met with rejection and anger. The younger brother acted with the utmost disrespect for his father, essentially wishing him dead, only desiring what he could gain as an inheritance from him. And then on top of everything, he went off to waste all of his father’s wealth. It was bad enough to take someone’s money and wish them dead, but then spending it all on worthless things just added insult to injury.

Imagine standing in the crowd of listeners as Jesus explained that while the younger son was still a far way off, the father began running toward his son. They probably listened in horror, wondering how violent the father’s response would be. But then something very unexpected happened—the father wrapped his son in his arms and welcomed him home without question.

Like the son returning to his father, we aren’t required to clean ourselves up before returning home to God. We’re invited to believe Jesus’ death and resurrection on the cross already put us in good standing with God, regardless of our past mistakes. Take the advice the disciples received. Believe that because of what Jesus has done, God runs to welcome you home.  May we all learn from Jesus’ story to run to our Father and realize God welcomes us with open arms.

In Christ’s Love and Service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn

Reset – Reset My Direction

“‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.” ‭Acts‬ ‭1:8-9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Hitting buttons is part of our modern day culture. When we want something to change we hit a button. So, you’re late for work at your office on the 10th floor and you jump into an open elevator, only to find that the doors aren’t closing fast enough. So, you jab at the “close door” button four or five times and, after a slight delay, the doors ease closed. Thus, leaving you satisfied you have moved this slow elevator on its path. Button pushing changes things – right?

Button pushing can help you navigate life and make a difference by letting you control things around you. Or at least you think it can control things around you. Sometimes those things you thought you were controlling, weren’t under your control at all. You may have heard of the “placebo effect” in medicine. It is where doctors in a study give a control group of patients useless sugar pills but tell them they are real medicine, and the patients’ brains convince them that the pills are the real deal. They begin to feel better and see improvement in their health not because of medicine but rather because of the psychological effect. Well, the truth is the placebo effect isn’t just for medicine anymore. Indeed, every day we’re encountering things that convince our brains we are controlling things.

That “close door” button in the elevator, for example, isn’t actually there for you to push. It only works when a key is inserted in the elevator panel by a firefighter or maintenance worker. Push it all you want, but the door will close when it’s programmed to do so every time. Ever since the Americans with Disabilities Act, the doors wait a little longer to close no matter what. Manufacturers could put a sign on the button saying something to that effect, but that’s a hassle. It’s easier to let the public believe they are the masters of elevator control.

Jesus knows it is easy for us to get distracted by control, anxiety, or even addictions. But instead Jesus tells His disciples and us “to receive our power from the Holy Spirit.” A reset life is not a one time occurrence. We can’t just push a button and hope everything changes the way we want. We’re called to focus our direction on God daily, making our relationship with the Spirit our highest goal. Then, and only then, a true “reset” can happen.

In Christ love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn

Reset – Hitting Reset

“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and 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.’”

Have you ever had to do a hard “reset” on your phone? I did recently and it went back to the beginning. If it wasn’t backed up it was gone. I had to start over. Three days after His death, Jesus did a reset in His ministry by coming back from the dead. He proved His authority and His divinity through His resurrection. He revealed Himself first to women at the tomb, and later to two men on the road to Emmaus. On that road He explained everything about the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures. He explained, or rather re-explained, how God had spoken through Scripture from the very beginning about a Savior who would come and die the death we deserve to die, and then live so we could have life in Him. Jesus told them once you know this and understand it then everything else changes. That is why the men exclaimed their hearts were burning. Jesus had reset their faith lives.

After the road to Emmaus, Jesus headed to the Galilee region to meet with Peter and six other disciples. He once again pushes the reset button with Peter as He reconciles His relationship with him. Through His words and actions Peter is challenged to reset his life and ministry to go make disciples. In today’s passage Jesus continues to preach His message of making disciples. He challenges the eleven disciples to expand this ministry to all the nations and to teach them all they need to know.

The resurrected Jesus is calling you to follow Him just like His other disciples did. He loves you with incredible love, and He wants you to experience Him as your greatest treasure through all of life’s circumstances. From now until the end of time you’re invited to experience Jesus. May your faith be reset by Jesus, and may you go and share your faith with others.

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn

Now What? – Reconciliation

“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.’”  John‬ ‭21:15‬ ‭NIV‬‬

When Peter meets Jesus the first time, Peter is not yet called Peter. His actual name is Simon. And when they meet, Jesus does two highly unusual things. First, He shows Simon that He knows who he is before he even opens his mouth. “Andrew brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John.’  (John 1:42) So Jesus knows Simon. Simon’s name preceded him, and at first glance, Simon was not much to look at. He was a nobody. He probably could not read. Standing in front of Jesus for the first time, Simon didn’t get a chance to define himself. It had already been done by the world. He was a fisherman. He was not a student of a Rabbi.

But then Jesus does something even more unusual. Jesus gives him an entirely new name! “You are Simon, son of John – but you will be called Cephas. Which translates into Petros or Peter or The Rock. Basically He gives him the nickname “Rocky.” Usually nicknames are given by someone who shares a special bond with you. Someone you have known for awhile. But Jesus did know Simon Peter. He knew his character. Jesus cuts right through any formality. I know you so well and love you so deeply that in my heart I want you to know what I think of you. You might be Simon son of John to the world and just some fisherman to them – but to me, you are Peter – The Rock – Johnson.
What a vision! Jesus immediately rejects whatever the culture thought of Simon, and instead projects onto him who he COULD BE. Incredibly, Jesus does the same thing to us. He sees us BOTH as we are and also as we could be. In His eyes, we are not less because of our histories and backgrounds. Rather, it becomes complete in our relationship with Him. That is why when Peter denied knowing Jesus, that Jesus reminded him they were still in relationship. “Peter, do you love me?” “You know that I love you.” Jesus forgave Peter and reconciled with him. Jesus reminded His friend “Rocky” they were still friends. Jesus also reminded Peter he had a calling to fulfill. “Feed My Sheep.” We all make mistakes and we all have a calling to fulfill. May we also reconcile with Jesus when we deny Him. May we all remember to live out our nickname and fulfill our calling like Peter.

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn

Now What? – Encountering Jesus

“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 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 24:30-32 NIV

Imagine for a moment you are with your favorite friends and family. You’ve traveled everywhere and done everything with them. They are the people you love and trust most in the world. Now imagine the darkest hour of your life and all of them simultaneously abandon you. What happens the next time you see these supposed “friends”? If you’re like me, you would share your frustration! I might even play scenarios of sweet revenge over and over again in my head until I could retaliate!

Now imagine you’re one of those abandoning, unreliable friends and the one you hung out to dry is none other than Jesus. Ouch! That anguishing tension is where Jesus’ so-called “friends” found themselves as rumors of His resurrection began to emerge. Each disciple was hopeful of seeing Jesus alive again, but also fearful. What would Jesus say? What would He do? Now What?

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn

Now What? – What comes after Easter?

“The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.’” – Matthew‬ ‭28:5-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

For Christians, Easter is not just one day, but rather a season of 50 days. That is what we call “Eastertide.” The CROSSROADS Great Room and Lobby will stay decorated in the Easter theme for 50 days. Easter season officially began at sunset on the eve of Easter and will end on May 20th with Pentecost, the day we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church (see Acts 2).

Easter season is more than an extended celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. In the early church, Lent was a season when persons who wished to become Christians were learning how to live the way of Jesus and preparing for baptism on Easter Sunday. The original purpose of the Easter season was to continue the formation of new Christians in the faith. This season gives us time to rejoice and experience what we mean when we say Christ is risen and we, as the church, are the body of the Risen Lord. It’s a season for focusing on the core doctrines and for preparing for the ministries the Holy Spirit has empowered us to undertake in Jesus’ name. Our “Now What” theme is a reminder that when we experience the resurrection it is appropriate to be asking what will be next in our faith journey.

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Paul Marzahn