Broken Justice: Restored in Christ

Week of Wednesday, April 5th – Tuesday, April 11th  

Authors: Denny & Marilyn Dahl

Justice – Conformity to truth, fact or sound reason. Fairness in the way people are dealt with
Isaiah 59:9-20

So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Isaiah 59:9

Isaiah is lamenting over the fact that they had become a sinful people and that they acknowledged their iniquities: rebellion and treachery against the Lord. No matter where they looked or what they did they couldn’t find the justice and righteousness they were looking for.

Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. Isaiah 59:15

When the Lord looked and saw there was no justice he was displeased, and was appalled there was no one to intervene. So the Lord intervened for the faithful.

“The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,” says the Lord. Isaiah 59:20

John 19:1-16 Jesus Sentenced to be Crucified

The account of Jesus before Pilate is a perfect example of broken justice. Pilate found no facts or reasons to crucify Jesus but gave in to those who wanted him crucified. Justice was not served that day but God’s plan was. God was there with his son that day just as he is with us.

In our lives we witness or experience injustice (broken justice) periodically. We might look at a person dying unexpectedly or too young, or someone suffering from a physical or mental condition as being not fair or an injustice. These two scripture readings remind us that although things may seem unjust and not fair, God is always there to help us through, that he does have a plan, and that all things happen to fulfill it.

Prayer: Dear Lord God, please be with us and reassure us that no matter how unjust or unfair things may seem at times you will always be there to walk with us or carry us through. We know we can’t always understand the reason certain things happen in life but help us to realize it is part of your plan for all of us. Amen.

Broken Promises: Restored in Christ

Week of Wednesday, March 29th – Tuesday, April 4th

Author: Pastor Sarah Carlstrom

John 21:15-17: 15 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.” 16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

Peter is a well-known follower of Jesus. He is a water-walking, storm-sinking, church-rocking, stumbling-blocking, Christ-denying, sheep-feeding disciple of Christ. In many ways I can relate to his life journey.

When reading about his life in the Bible, I often pinpoint the night of Jesus’ arrest as what must have been his lifetime low: the night he denied Jesus three times. I began to notice God calling me into ministry when I was a senior in High School. It was not only an internal nudge, but also people around me pointing out gifts I had never noticed on my own. What I remember most, however, was my ‘Peter denial’ day. This was the day that, after much wrestling, I told God that I was going to school to study music and he could come with me if he wanted to. When I look back on this day, I not only see myself denying God’s call on my life, but also denying God himself. This has often been a place I go back to and recall. What place in your life have you rejected God and his call? Do you continually go back to this place? Do you try to relive it, change it, or repent of it?

The story of Peter does not end there. Neither does mine. God really shook my life (and my husband’s for that matter.) He shook our housing, our finances, our jobs, and our life goals. When we hit rock bottom, we found that the ROCK (of Christ) was solid. We gave our entire lives over to him with a blank check. And it was there that Jesus gave me a second chance, not only on having my life grounded in him, but also in his calling for my life. He gave me a second chance, not only do be in ministry, but to love more deeply than I could imagine.

Even though Peter had denied Jesus, he had repented of this and wept bitterly. Jesus does not leave him there in the place of sorrow. Jesus dies to pay for this sin, is buried, raises from the dead, and comes to him in the flesh. The promises Peter made to Jesus were all broken, but the promises Jesus made to Peter were restored completely. Jesus covers the three bitter denials Peter made with (not one, not two, but…)three loving statements, entrusting him with what Jesus values most: feeding and tending him lambs and sheep. This is truly Christ’s loving power to restore

Brothers and sisters in Christ, bring Jesus the broken promises you have made. Repent in a heartfelt way and do not be afraid to face the truth of this brokenness. Then, hear Jesus as he restores you – not by anything you have done, but by the promises he has made to you. You are God’s beloved child. You have an important role to play in his Kingdom here on earth. He loves you, and does not want you to stay in that broken place. Bring it to him, and receive the greatest gift he could give you, a part in feeding and tending his beloved the lambs and sheep! Believe me, there’s no greater honor and joy.

Let us pray: Lord Jesus, just like Peter, I have denied you and the call you place on my life. I have broken the promises I made. Yet, you are trustworthy even when I am not. Thank you! I can’t believe you invite me to take part in your Kingdom work here on earth. Please show me the role you have called me to and empower me through Holy Spirit to care for this responsibility in a way that honors you. Amen.

Broken Bread: Restored in Christ

Week of Wednesday, March 22nd – Tuesday March 28th

Author: Katherine Pachokas

Scripture: Exodus 16: 1-5   1The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. 2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” 4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way, I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”

 

Trust and faith in God

We do not know what the future holds and it is easy to look at the past and how good it was now that we are not there anymore. Not knowing the future is terrifying and we, as humans, do not like not knowing where we are going, nor do we like to give up control. Very often God tests us, just as he did the people of Israel. He puts challenges and road blocks in our way. It is our choice what we do with them. We can fight them, try to remove them, take a running jump to hurdle over them…or we can trust that God has a plan and knows what He is doing.

There have been many times in my life that I have found myself in between Elim and Sinai. I see what I had, what I gave up, or what I lost. I am in the Wilderness of Sin, unsure of the future and complaining. I absolutely hate not knowing what is coming, it scares the living daylights out of me. I feel hopeless, wondering where the next meal is going to come from, how the bills are going to get paid, how I am going to get where I need to go without gas in the car. Every time, God has provided in some way for us. Every time, God has tested me. Every time I end up bashing my head against the road blocks trying to do things my way. Yet, every time God has patience with me and reminds me that I am His and I am loved! He redirects me, provides for me, and puts yet another road block in my way in hopes that this time I will remember to trust and have faith in Him. This passage is reminding us that we all need to have faith in God, we all need to trust in Him. He has a plan for us and it was set in place before we were even born. All we need to do is quiet our complaining long enough to listen to his directions.

Broken Trust: Restored in Christ

 

Week of Wednesday, March 15th – Tuesday, March 21st

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this;

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

 No Turning Back

Author: Debbie Rich

 

There was so much confusion

     I felt lost,

So I turned to the cross

     No turning back,

I’ve given all I have to Jesus

     At the cross.

I feel I’m no longer no longer lost

     And I’m not turning back.

Dealing with my past,

     Gonna keep moving on,

Was once lost in my mind

     So I wasted all that time.

     Keeping fear that I kept near.

Gonna keep moving on,

     No turning back

Thank you, Jesus, for loving me

     And setting me free.

Not going back,

Gonna keep moving on,

     No turning back.

Broken Vessels: Restored in Christ

Week of Wednesday, March 8th – Tuesday March 14th

Author: Barb Torstenson

Vessel….   Webster’s Dictionary gives us several meanings for this word.  One meaning is a large sailing ship.  Another meaning is a type of tube or canal through which fluid can pass.  Still another meaning is a container or jar for liquids.  If we add the word, broken, to the above meanings, one can picture a sunken ship; a bruise on one’s body or worse, a massive stroke; and lastly, a real mess to clean up because of all the spill resulting from a broken jar.

In the Gospel of Mark (14: 3-9), shortly before Jesus is crucified, He is attending a meal at the home of Simon the Leper.  A woman, we later find out is probably Mary (Martha’s and Lazarus’ sister), approaches Jesus with a very expensive alabaster jar (vessel), filled with outrageously expensive perfume.  She breaks the jar and pours all of its contents on Jesus’ head.  Another gospel describes her pouring it on his feet too and wiping it with her hair. I think everyone remembers the outrage that some in attendance express because of the amount of money that is wasted in that moment.  Her act is an act of true worship, love and great sacrifice.  Jesus understands this and points out that what she did for Him will be remembered whenever the Gospel (Jesus’ atoning death on the cross for all of humanity) is repeated to a new generation throughout history.

Whenever archaeologists study civilizations, they meticulously sift sand and soil to find remnants of pottery that group may have used.  How excited they become when broken pieces of jars are found.   A lot of valuable information about those people can be gleaned from the remnants of their vessels.

The word vessel has been used in the Bible in still another way.  One’s body, in some translations, is referred to as a vessel.  In Acts 9:15, right after the conversion of Paul on the road to Damascus, God tells Ananias to go to Paul and lay hands on him to give him back his sight.  When Ananias questions this direction because of Paul’s reputation of the persecution of Christians, God says to Ananias that Paul is, “a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (KJV).  It is no wonder that in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians (4: 1-11), he uses the phrase, “treasure in earthen vessels,” (vs 7, KJV).  In more plain terms, he is expressing that the wonderful news of Jesus Christ, the message of salvation, has been entrusted to himself and other fallible human beings.  The NIV version uses, “treasure in jars of clay.”  Paul says that this treasure should never be distorted to please an audience. God’s Word must go forth in truth. People need to see God through us. 

I don’t know how you feel about your vessel right now.  Some days mine complains a bit too much.  I recall younger years when I could accomplish a lot.  But, this passage reminds us that no matter what state our earthly body is in, we have the responsibility of passing on the message of Jesus Christ and what He has done for us on the Cross. That message should be in acts of true worship, love and sacrifice, just as Mary did in our opening Bible reference. We can be assured that the Holy Spirit who dwells within us will give us all that we need to accomplish that calling.  Paul goes on to say that we can be persecuted in all kinds of ways, but we will never be abandoned.   We can be perplexed but never in despair, hard-pressed but not crushed.  As Pastor Sarah relayed in one of her recent sermons, we can be stirred but never shaken.  Our job is to reveal the good news and not worry about what is happening with this earthly body.  The all-surpassing power comes from God, not our feeble human attempts.  Are you a broken vessel?  God can use someone like you!

Broken Hearts: Restored in Christ

Week of Wednesday March 1st – Tuesday, March 7th

What’s Up With Garment-Ripping?

Author: Jill Nelson

“Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity.” Joel 2: 13

What does it mean to rend our hearts? Seems like a good question. But why would God also warn us not to rip our clothes? To the Western mind, clothes-ripping sounds like nonsense, but the original Jewish audience understood the concept well.

In Hebrew culture, tearing one’s clothes was a sign of great grief. (Examples: Genesis 37:39; II Samuel 13:31; II Kings 5:8; II Kings 19:1; Esther 4:1) The act was an outward expression of an inward condition. Many passages of Scripture teach us that God is more interested in the inward condition than the outward display. This warning from God—that the inside needs to match the outside—applies in every culture.

Mark 14:63 illustrates how the clothes-rending (the outward sign) can be used hypocritically. The high priest rips his robe when Jesus claims to be the Messiah. This is exactly the kind of robe-ripping without inner integrity that God warns us against. Because the high priest’s heart is not right, he judges Jesus wrongly.

The book of Joel was originally written in Hebrew, and the word used for “heart” in this passage refers to the very core of a thing. In this case, the reference is to our souls—our entire minds, wills, and emotions. So how do we rend (rip) our souls in a way that is pleasing to God?

Are we supposed to be the heart-condition police? If we do, we are taking on the job of the Holy Spirit, who alone has the power to convict us of our sins. In I Corinthians 4:3-5, the Apostle Paul says: “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. . . He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart.”

Does this tell us we are to make no value judgments? On the contrary, we can and should determine (judge) if a behavior is right or wrong based on Scripture. Our test is the Ten Commandments or the two Jesus used to summarize all the law. (Matthew 22:37-39)

However, we cannot sit in judgment on someone’s heart condition, not even our own. That is the Holy Spirit’s job. When He convicts us of sin, we either resist Him or yield to Him. When we resist, we either harden our hearts and deny wrong-doing, or we are sad for being caught, not for doing the deed. Either reaction is wrong and will keep us in a place of soul-sickness and broken relationships. When we yield to the Holy Spirit, we experience Godly sorrow (heart-ripping) that will bring about a changed life.

The changed life is the true sign of a rent heart, rather than merely a rent garment (temporary and outward-only adjustment of behavior). When our hearts are genuinely broken before God, we naturally bring forth the “fruit of repentance” that lasts (Luke 3:8).

Prayer: Holy Spirit, please search me now and reveal to me any hidden faults. Help me to experience Godly repentance—the rending of the heart—that will allow You to purify me and help me to become more like You. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

Restored in Christ

Restored in Christ

Brokenness is a reality in our world, our lives, and our hearts. We often go to great lengths to hide it from others (and ourselves!) When we do this, we end up carrying bitterness, hurt, anger, hate and pain around with us. We are separated from our Heavenly Father and unable to connect fully with others around us. And while we may think we’re doing a great job of hiding it, this brokenness ends up often hurting us all. The only way that our deepest hurts can heal, is through Christ. Jesus wants to heal us. He died on the cross, was buried, and rose from the dead so that we might be forgiven, healed and restored. Yet he will not barge in and force us to accept his grace. He stands at the door of our hearts and knocks, waiting for us to open the door and invite him in. (Revelation 3:20) In the words of James 5:16

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

This Lenten season, you will be given the chance to answer Christ’s knock, and invite him into the brokenness that weighs heavy on your heart to be restored in three concrete ways in addition to our weekly Sunday Worship services:

  • Weekday Lenten Worship –
    • “Restored in Christ” is the theme
    • Crossroads Members’ will share their faith stories
    • Wednesdays in Lent, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday (schedule will be posted)
  • Small Group Bible Studies –
    • “When God’s People Pray” is the theme by Jim Cymbala
    • Held at congregation member’s homes
    • Sign up in the Crossroads Gathering Area
  • Weekly Devotions –
    • “Restored in Christ” Devotions
    • Written by Crossroads Congregation Members
    • Available by email and print

Whether you’re carrying the weight of past hurts, in the process of healing, or desiring to help others heal, you are invited to be a part of what God is doing to restore hearts, vessels, trust, bread, promises, justice and so much more. How will you respond to His knock?

Graciously Being Restored!

Pastor Sarah

At the CROSSroads

Jeremiah 6:16

This is what the LORD says:

“Stand at the crossroads and look;

ask for the ancient paths, 

ask where the good way is, and walk in it,

and you will find rest for your souls. 

But you have said, ‘We will not walk in it.'” 

AT THE CROSSROADS – We are at a CROSSroads.  A CROSSroads is a place where we make life decisions big and small. Daily, we make decisions about which paths to take in our marriages, friendships, workplaces, communities and families.  In this passage from Jeremiah, God promises that we will find rest for our souls. Yet, we can easily feel tired and dry in our daily lives. It can leave us asking “Have we missed it?” Let’s take a look at this passage to see what God has to say to us about being at a Crossroads.

STAND & LOOK- The first direction God gives us in this verse is to stand and look. This means that we need to stop moving and wait. We are being advised to look at all the paths intentionally; analyzing our options and where they lead. This is often hard to do! We are busy. Life moves quick. Sometimes we don’t realize we are on autopilot. Or we think we know what those options are anyway. It is important to take time to look at the options offered to us, even the ones we make on a daily basis. That is why God gives us this first direction to stop and look.

ASK – The second direction God gives us in this passage is to ask.  “Ask for the ancient path”, he says, “where the good way is”. One of the names for God in the Bible is “Ancient of Days.” (see Daniel 7) What God is directing us to do here is to ask for HIS path. So often we take another path thinking it is good. While many paths may look good, not every path is God’s path. No matter how it may look at first, God’s path is truly good!  God gives us direction when we ask. Has has promised to do so saying: “ask and you shall receive” (Matthew 7:7) using His Word, circumstances, his people, and the Holy Spirit to direct us.

WALK –   The third direction God gives us is to walk on the path God has shown us. We often hesitate to walk on this path. Perhaps because we want to see where exactly the path will take us. Or we don’t want to leave another path behind. This is especially difficult when we are walking from a persistent sin. It can also be incredibly tough when taking a step into a new area that will result in a big change in our lives.While we may not have those answers to every question we have, God asks us to walk on the path he directs trusting his love and guidance.

REST FOR OUR SOULS –  It is on God’s path we find true rest for our souls. We often seek rest by choosing our path, but in reality it is God’s path that brings the rest we so desperately seek. This does not mean that God’s path is free from trouble. Nor does is it easy. But God has promised to give us this rest we so desperately seek as we follow him.

BUT YOU HAVE SAID “WE WILL NOT WALK IN IT.” – At times I want to end there and not go on to this last line. I cannot, however, because it holds the truth and the best rest yet. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have not walked the path God laid out for us. And we are not alone. Israel did not walk in God’s path when Jeremiah was speaking to them about worshipping idols instead of the one true God.  Adam and Eve did not follow God’s path choosing the fruit and death rather than trusting God’s boundary and life. Consequently, the most natural path for us to take is not God’s, but our own. At times we do not stop and look. Sometimes we do not ask. And other times we do not walk in the way God has guided. And this path does not lead to rest for our souls, but death for our souls. Do not fear, brothers and sisters in Christ, the answer to this dilemma is not found by trying to stop, look, ask or walk better. The answer must first be found at the CROSSroads.

God is at work at the CROSSroads. When forging ahead on auto-pilot, the Holy Spirit urges us to STOP at the cross and LOOK to see that Christ is already there. Jesus lived, died on the cross, and rose from the dead so that you could be freed from the burden of these sins. Jesus says it himself “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) When we forget or refuse to ask the Lord for help,  he invites us to ASK Jesus to forgive our sins.  And when we have gone astray, we are invited to WALK with Christ, and trusting afresh and anew that the Holy Spirit will guide every step of the way. On our own, we cannot walk on God’s path. But with God, all things are possible! (Luke 1:37) And this is most certainly the rest our souls need the most!

Your Fellow Traveler,

Pastor Sarah

 

God Construction Season

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true. Revelation 21:5

Minnesota has two seasons: winter and road construction! We are currently in road construction season. 🙂 During this season I usually dread seeing the yellow diamond signs that say “Road Work Ahead.” They mean I’m going to have to slow down and perhaps take a new route. It can even cause me to be afraid. Afraid of what I will see and how this work is going to effect me.

God-at-Work SignIn our churches, we are not in road construction season. We are in God Construction season. God is working. Instead of moaning that we need to slow down, let’s rejoice that God is creating a new work in our lives and communities. Let’s praise him that we get to be a part of it. Yes, it may even mean we have to take a new route. The result is worth it! We are invited to see God at work. Not only that, we are invited to be a part of this work! This was made clear to me in a new way when I received a phone call today.

Dei Lutheran church in Tomah, WI, recently reached out to Crossroads through an online LCMC resource called “Churches Connect.” Pastor Dave Dahl saw one of our gifts as community outreach and wanted to seek our help. His community is experiencing a large influx of drug abuse along with the many other difficulties that accompany it. Many churches in their area have tried and failed to reach this need. I want to invite us to pray for this congregation. Let us call on God to open eyes and fervently seek God’s guidance in their community. Let us pray for Christ’s healing in Tomah and the Holy Spirit to renew their hope. Finally, let us pray that any walls would be torn down and Tomah’s churches would serve God together in this need. (On a side note: I also shared with them our new step of faith in offering Kids 4 Christ Child Care. They will be keeping us in their prayers as well!) We are being invited to be a part of what God is doing in that community as well as in our own.

Yes, we are in God Construction season. God is doing a new and exciting work in our congregations, communities, our nation, and our world. There is no need to fear. I, for one, can’t wait to see what God is creating and be a part of it!

A Work in Progress,

Pastor Sarah

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7

SHIFT: From Congregation to Kingdom Focus

Growing up I sang a song in Sunday School called “We are the Church” The lyrics are:

The church is not a building where people go to pray;
it’s not made out of sticks and stones, it’s not made out of clay.
We are the church, the body of the Lord,
we are all God’s children and we have been restored.

This past weekend 15 leaders from Crossroads attended the SHIFT: Leadership Conference in Altoona, Iowa. This first Shift we discussed was a shift from being congregation focused to  kingdom focused. In this session, we were challenged to focus our attention not on growing the numbers of church (such as attendance, membership, and finances.) These are the numbers of a building, not the church. Instead, we were called to be ambassadors who stand for God’s Kingdom. To shine Christ’s light wherever we go, like a fire sending out sparks ahead of the path of the coming forest fire.  We read this in Matthew:

“But what about you?” [Jesus] asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, an on this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be found in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:18-19

Jesus builds the church on a foundation of faith and trust. Our work is in the kingdom. We are called to be ambassadors in God’s kingdom here on earth sharing Gods message of forgiveness of sins to those who repent. We live out our faith in every area of our lives: in our families, at work, in the community and in our congregations. We gather together each week to worship the Lord and be strengthened to go out to do it all over again. God’s builds the church – we are called to focus on the work of God’s Kingdom. As my Sunday School teacher would continue to lead us in singing:

The church it is the people living out their lives,
called, enlightened, sanctified for the work of Jesus Christ.
We are the church, the body of the Lord,
we are all God’s children and we have been restored.

Your Sister in Christ,

Pastor Sarah

Worship Services

WORSHIP TIMES:
9:15am Sunday School & Adult Bible Study
10:00am Fellowship
10:30am Worship

Pastor Sarah Carlstrom
(email) carlstrom.sarah@gmail.com
(church) 320-312-7729
(cell) 320-226-5676

Our Association: LCMC

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