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Reality Check

Here's an excerpt from an Update that Chase Johnson just sent from Ghana. His intro really reminds us of the call in Hebrews 12 to fix our eyes on Jesus so that we can run the race marked out for us:


"The main thing I have been learning this month regarding my walk with Jesus is what true reality looks like. So often we are inhibited by feelings and emotions and we are lost in a place where we look at physical things instead of focusing our attention on Christ. One story that goes well with this concept is Peter walking on the Sea of Galilee towards Jesus. In the story, Peter begins to sink when he starts to see how powerful the storm is instead of fixing his eyes on the Lord. For me as well as for most believers, there are seasons and times when our faith is tested by storms that feel so real. It's in these moments that we must refocus our minds and

our hearts on the truest reality, which is our life in Christ."


There are a lot of things out there that can seem real and may look like "truth" but that are more like virtual reality. They look similar to what is real but they're not real...and they actually make it impossible for us to interact with what is real. If we were running a race with a VR Headset on it would hinder us and injure us. Hebrews 12:1-2 says that we should throw those things off and "...run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith..."


I don't know what situations, ideas, philosophies, fears, doubts, or other emotions may be getting in the way for you, but I know that the way to see clearly is to fix your eyes on Jesus. If you're struggling with disorientation, discouragement, or doubt, I want to invite you to take some time to "consider" Jesus, as Hebrews 12:1-3 says: Fix your eyes on Him. Think about Him, learn more about Him...keep coming back to Jesus. Check out this page that we put together About Jesus:

https://crossculturemn.org/about-jesus


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Test and Identity

As we’ve been exploring the final chapters in the book of Hebrews we’ve been talking about the great men and women of faith and the impact they had in the kingdom of God. At the same time we’ve learned that none of them were examples of human perfection. They all had low moments in their journey with God. 


Nevertheless, in the testing of their faith they determined that there was nothing better than trusting in God in spite of their circumstances. Many of their tests of faith came in the form of struggles, persecution, social pressure, fear, poverty, and pain, and for others it came in the form of glory, riches, status, fame, authority and temptation. 


Whichever form of test they faced, their trust was rooted in what God had said and not in their earthly condition. 


I want to share with you a song I’ve been listening to on repeat for the last 2 weeks as a reminder of our identity in Christ in spite of the circumstances around us and I hope it blesses you as well. 


Chorus: 

I am a temple of Your Spirit 

A born again believer, by the grace of Jesus 

And I am an ambassador of Heaven 

A lover of Your presence, prophesying freedom 

And it's all for Your glory 


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eD7sd_WB40M

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Making Room

Have you ever thought “I need to seek God more… but I just can’t find the time”?

If you’ve ever struggled to find the time to go to bed earlier, to pray, or to do things that you really want to do but can’t seem to squeeze them in … you are in good company with the rest of us! It seems ironic that even though we have plenty of technology, time-saving appliances, and more home services than ever before in history… we still can’t find the time to do the things that are most important to us!

I don’t think my problem or yours is based in lack. I think it may be in having too much.


Too much to do. Too much to have. Not enough room.

 

In February this year I had the opportunity to visit the Magnolia Silos in Waco, Texas. It was a refreshing trip I was blessed to go on. While I was there I got to try the most delicious cupcakes I have ever had. They were so tasty I wanted to eat more and more. After two cupcakes though I realized… I couldn’t eat anything more! I was so full! The thought of eating another almost made me sick… even though they were delicious. The problem wasn’t with the cupcake. I was just too full.

 

“She wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” Luke 2:7.


When Jesus was born, there wasn’t room. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to host Him or his parents. They didn’t willfully reject him. They were just too busy to notice. They simply had no room. Is it possible for us to be like the Inn keepers? So busy and content with things that we can’t seem to find room for the most important?


There was no place for Jesus.


Perhaps we don’t more. We need less. We need to feel hungry again. We need to have room.

 

A definition of minimalism says that Minimalism is the “intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from them” (Becker, The More of Less).

If minimalism with our belongings means that we intentionally promote those things we most value and remove anything that is a distraction, how do we do that in our lives? It may not be that we need to do more for God or add more to do’s to our schedule. Maybe, it’s something else that needs to be demoted. As I think about this, the question comes to my mind:


What do I need to take out of my life that doesn’t really matter?


Maybe fasting from social media, pinterest, or television… what is one thing that takes your time and doesn’t really matter? Another question to think on:


How can I intentionally promote those things that I most value?


If I want to promote those things that really matter, they can’t compete with those that truly don’t.


There were so many beautiful things to look at in all the shops at Magnolia Silos. But there was one place where everyone who entered stopped looking for what they were going to buy. Instead of walking around, they would look for a bench, sit down, and sit in silence. I did the same. It was the Chapel.



As we sat there, we all looked up. There was nothing to be said and nothing to be bought. There was silence. Peace. Connection with God. It was empty on purpose.


It is not about adding more and it is not what You DO FOR God that matters. It is who you ARE IN Him that does.


“The main measure of your devotion to God is not your devotional life. It is simply your life” (Ortberg, The Me I Want to Be). God wants to fill you and satisfy you. Because He made us and fashioned us for Himself… no matter what we may have in this life… He alone will satisfy our souls.


“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat” (Matt. 5:6, MSG).


Of all the ways you enjoy seeking God every day, can I add a couple more ways?

  • Press the “Pause Button”: When you are feeling disconnected from God or worried about something, pause and invite His presence to fill you.
  • Find an activity you enjoy doing, and invite God along with you to do it together.
  • Go on a walk with God, tell Him what is on your mind.


God, we pray that you would help us make room for you in our lives and hunger for you in our souls. Give us this day our daily bread… the bread of your presence.


“You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you” (Saint Augustine).

 

 

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In memory of Bro. Stacy and a reminder of God’s faithfulness.

I heard of Brother Stacy Cline while in Mexico, 3 years before I even met him. My sister shared with me some nuggets of wisdom taken right out of her Marriage and the Family Class at Elim Bible Institute; a class Bro. Stacy taught for 47 years. I firmly believe the advice she shared with me back then, changed the course of my life and eventually that led me to meet my wife Bet.


In 2010 I finally found myself walking into his class and meeting him for the first time. He saw me and to my surprise he greeted me by name, “Jonas, it is good to see you. We’ve been praying for your arrival. Welcome to class!” Later I learned he would get a list with photos of all his students and would make it a point to learn their names and pray for them before meeting them.


In April of 2021, our family was getting ready to move from NY to MN. In the midst of all the business of moving, the Lord put two of my Elim professors on my heart. I clearly felt I was to reach out to them and setup a time to film an interview with them. I had no plan, just a sense of urgency about their spiritual legacy.


I managed to interview one of them and we ended up having a meaningful 4 hour conversation and a wonderful time eating supper together with Bet and the kids, but when I reached out to Bro. Stacy, the schedules just didn’t lined up. I remember our phone conversation during my last days in NY and hearing him say “hey, next time you are in the area we’ll do that”.


Stacy Cline entered into glory on Friday, March 4th, 2022 reuniting with his beloved Queen, as he would refer to his wife, Connie.

During the Memorial service last weekend I was saddened and internally kicking myself for not “making it happen” while fully aware there was nothing else I could’ve done then. After hearing the testimonies of the impact he had in so many people I finally released it and let out a “well, the Lord knows”.


A few days after the service I received a text in a group chat I’m a part of with some video creatives from NY. It was from Mike, one of the videographers sharing an encouraging message with us:


“For the first time in a long time I’m remembering just how powerful of a thing it is that we do (filming) Been working on a project for Elim Bible Institute. We filmed a bunch of interviews but one in particular of a staff member with Stage 4 cancer that had worked for the college 47 years. It ended up being his last interview ever…The man lived through a lot! So grateful for having met him”.


I could not believe it! God is so faithful! As I shared with Mike what I had been feeling he said:


“I think that not all lost opportunities are completely lost. I ended up getting a great interview with him and had I not gotten that opportunity, I don’t think today I’d have the same perspective. I know it’s probably hard to see that as anything but a lost opportunity, but I’m grateful that, in a way, you gave me the chance to see things differently today”


I guess the Lord still had one more life to impact through Bro. Stacy’s testimony. Although I thought I had missed out, God was still on the throne.


I want to encourage you today to listen to the prompts of the Lord to do things, to speak up, to reach out, to intercede, to pray, to go, but above all to trust that His faithfulness goes way beyond than what we are able to “make happen”.


“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, NIV).

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Laying a Solid Foundation

Check out these thoughts from Tom Flaherty, a pastor at one of our sister churches in Madison, WI, as we begin the season of Lent today. This has some timely thoughts for the season and is very connected to what we've been going through in Hebrews:


“Let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation

of repentance from dead works…” Hebrews 6:1


On August 1, 2007, a bridge in Minneapolis that crossed the Mississippi river collapsed killing 13 and injuring 145. The irony was that work was being done on the bridge at the time of the collapse, but it was the wrong work. One article summed up the types of things that were being done: “The construction taking place in the weeks prior to the collapse included replacing lighting, and guard rails. At the time of the collapse, four of the eight lanes were closed for resurfacing.” Because the foundational work was left undone, all the other work proved to be in vain. This is how it is in a Christianity that lacks repentance. It doesn’t matter how much we do, if we haven’t really repented and aren’t living a life of repentance, all our works are dead in God’s sight.


Hebrews 3:7-8; 3:15 and 4:7 all say the same thing: “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”


Repentance is not possible until God speaks to us. He can speak through His word as we read it, or through a preacher at church, or by a dream or vision in the night, or through an honest friend, or in difficult circumstances. God has lots of ways to speak to us when He wants to get our attention.


When God speaks we need to agree with Him. David said, “Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak” (Psalm 51:4). When we agree with what God says we justify Him; when we defend ourselves by making excuses for what we did, we justify ourselves. Hardening your heart toward God can actually mean softening your heart toward you by giving yourself unwarranted and unsanctified mercy for evil you have said, thought, or done. “It wasn’t that bad,” “he had it coming,” “I only spoke the truth,” “I was tired,” “Yeah, but she did that wrong thing first,” are just a few excuses that quickly come into our hearts when we seek to justify ourselves.


Let’s not live resurfacing the bridge when what it needs is foundation work. Rather, let’s each take time to seek our hearts and fully repent. Isaiah 30:15 gives the blessing that will result, “In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.”

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Out Of My Comfort Zone

"I think I'm in the wrong place," I said as I smiled at the African-American woman sitting behind the counter at the new store in our neighborhood that sells hair products and braids primarily used by black women. She looked a bit confused and then I pointed to my bald head and she laughed and said "we have wigs too!" I was the big, white, bald guy in the store for black women's hair because I was out on the Saturday before Valentine's Day with a group from our church who was looking for people to share the love of Jesus with. I told her what I was up to and Abby and I gave her a rose, told her how much God loved her, and asked if there was any way that we could pray for her or her business. She told us of the different needs in her business which opened the door for one of the customers in the store to come over and be prayed for as well. I shared with them the things and scriptures that I had sensed God put on my heart when we were praying as a group before heading out earlier. One of the ladies had been going through that very thing that morning and it was a great encouragement to her that God would have us there just as she happened to be in this otherwise empty store that Saturday afternoon.


You would probably think that I'm an extrovert and that talking to strangers is easy for me, but you'd be wrong. Talking to strangers is out of my comfort zone. I would much prefer to only be around people I know and do things that I'm comfortable doing, but it's Christ's love that compels me to be uncomfortable and even choose to make a fool of myself by cracking silly jokes to break the ice. I kept walking into barbershops and hair salons for the next hour asking for a haircut and then pulling back my hoodie...their faces were amusing and sometimes they laughed, but it broke the ice and started conversations and opportunities to let them know that God loves them, wants them to know Him personally, and has great and precious promises and purposes for their lives. It looked different in each situation, but those from our church who chose to step out of their comfort zone to share the love of Jesus with others got to share roses, love, laughs, and prayer with over 24 people in just a couple of hours.


Later on that night I found myself in another situation where I could have done what was most comfortable but instead chose to get out of my comfort zone and grow. I was tasked with taking one of our kids to a valentine's day/house warming party and it was just me, some parents I didn't know, and a bunch of teen girls. I could have done what other parents did and gone to enjoy some peace and quiet at a coffee shop until it was over, but I chose to stay and talk to the other parents I didn't know. I was tired, we had already had a long day with the annual meeting, the outreach, and I hadn't slept well the night before either...but I knew that the invitation to grow is for all of us and that God was up to something at this party and I just needed to find out what it was and be part of it. I got to encourage several people in conversation and eventually met someone who had just experienced a loss in their life and was searching for God. We got to pray together, exchange info, and were able to reconnect the next day for the SuperBowl party at our house.


I don't share that to convince you that I'm an awesome extroverted evangelist, but to say that God can do great things, divine appointments, when we choose to listen to Him, look for what He's doing and join Him in that work of loving those around us. Like me, it can happen when we're tired and most longing for our comfort zones. Hopefully, my testimony from Saturday illustrates that invitation, to quote Casting Crowns, "to step out of my comfort zone into the realm of the unkown where Jesus is."


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cKm_mYVPQE

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All Trees Don't Grow Alike

Have you ever tried on some clothes that don’t fit quite right? After observing the tag, you notice it says “One Size Fits All”! We could all agree that it probably won’t fit “All” after all! Admittedly, this happens to me rather often!


We’ve started a New Year and a new series! This is a year to Grow Up toward God! In order to grow, we have been discussing the importance of walking in relationships of discipleship; both giving to others what we have received and being in a relationship with those who help us to grow. While it is important that all trees continue growing, I find it interesting that not all trees grow the same way, at the same rate, or under the same conditions. They don’t all produce the same fruit or seed either. Similarly, we cannot equate growing in God with a certain way to pray, or amount of Bible to read, or ways to serve as a means of maturity. God calls some of His Body to be hands, head, or feet and function and grow in different ways. He calls us all to grow in different ways ~ the ones we personally need the most.


Just like clothing that doesn’t work well for everyone, I’ve noticed that similar propensity in our spiritual journey when it comes to growing in God. We look for a formula or path that other more experienced Christians have taken to arrive at their place of maturity. There are many ways we can come closer to God. Oftentimes, we crave knowing the details of their personal relationship with God in order that we too would know when we have “arrived” once we manage to do those same things. Some feel closest to God when praying, reading the Bible, serving, worshiping, teaching, or learning. If we were to do it exactly the way they did it, maybe we too could become the perfect believers. Then again, we consider Ephesians 2:


God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Eph 2:8-10


In other words, we truly can’t earn God’s grace and we can’t perfect his work in us either! But what we can do is surrender to His leading in our lives and learn how it is that He has uniquely made us and calls us to live for Him. In his book “The Me I Want to Be”, John Ortberg says something that stands out to me: “Appliances get mass-produced. Masterpieces get handcrafted”. Go ahead, read it again!


You are God’s masterpiece. Created uniquely in Christ for good works. You are not God’s appliance but a masterpiece. God is not limited by your humanity; he longs for relationship with you! He is mindful of you and desires to visit you (Ps. 8:4). God knows what you need. Just as he has known what to do with countless others:  


He had Abraham take a walk, Elijah take a nap,

Joshua take a lap, and Adam take the rap.

He gave Moses a forty-nine-year time out, he gave David a harp and a dance,

and he gave Paul a pen and a scroll.

He wrestled with Jacob, argued with Job, whispered to Elijah,

warned Cain, and comforted Hagar.

He gave Aaron an altar, Miriam a song, Gideon a fleece,

Peter a name, and Elisha a Mantle.

Jesus was stern with the rich young ruler, tender with the woman caught in adultery, patient with the disciples, blistering with the scribes.

God never grows two people the same way.

God is a hand-crafter, not a mass producer.

Now it's your turn (Ortberg, 2010).


What makes you uniquely you? What is the learning style that comes most naturally to you? What helps you to rest? Are you more fully awake in the morning, afternoon, or evening? What things burden your heart and cause you to reach out? What makes you more aware of the presence of God in your life? It may look different than those around you but it is an act of worship every time you respond when Holy Spirit speaks and draws you to himself or encourages you to serve, or moves you to act… and it may be exactly what we need!


God has made you for freedom and he created you completely YOU! He desires to fill you with His Fullness so that you may give him glory and walk with Him in the way that only YOU can!


Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Cor. 3:17-18


I pray that you would be encouraged as you seek God, filled with His presence, and at peace in His freedom!

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Mask Mandate

With the recent increase in COVID cases, the City of Minneapolis has reinstated the Mask mandate for masks to be worn at all times except when eating or drinking for adults and children over two years old.


As an Intentional Community, we believe it is important that we continue to meet and strengthen one another in seeking God. As Hebrews 10:23-25 says: Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.


We understand the difficult times these are for all of us. We want to take important precautions, submit to the authorities, care for all of the members of our community, and continue to pursue God’s purposes together. Therefore, we ask that you please come prepared with a mask for use within the building, remain socially distant, and sanitize as needed. We will have masks available at the Connecting table.


We will continue to monitor the city regulations as well as the closing of public facilities like schools and restaurants. We consider our meeting together as important and will continue offering meals for those who want to participate in a Mealtime at 5:00 PM. For those who would prefer not to participate in a meal during this time, you are still welcome to join us for Worship at 5:30 PM in the Sanctuary. If you or anyone in your household is feeling sick, we ask that you get tested and remain home if tested positive. We will continue to have the Livestream option available.


For those joining in mealtime, we are asking that everyone keep their mask on until they eat and to put it back on after they are done eating in order to follow the guidelines from the City of Minneapolis. Tables will be spread out for social distancing. We encourage everyone to sanitize before and after the meal.


Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns.

We thank you for persevering through these difficult times, for your continued prayer for our church, and for pursuing God’s purposes together.


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Ordinary Treasures

This Christmas season I have been reflecting on the ordinary moments found throughout the Christmas Story. This reflection has caused me to savor the everyday moments I so often take for granted and have realized truly what a gift they are in the day to day. As I reflect on the Christmas story, it seems the ordinary details seem to be what makes it extraordinary.


Ending 2021 for our family has felt anything but ordinary. As most of you know we have had a few unexpected challenges. At the beginning of November I injured my foot in a fantastic display of public embarrassment and have been crutching around ever since. Doctor's have remained perplexed as to the symptoms I am experiencing and are uncertain what type of care to offer. Everyday things have taken more effort and navigating parenting of four terrific, small humans has become a creative daily effort.


On Christmas Eve, we were unexpectedly hit from behind by a speeding car at a four way stop. The back end of our minivan was crushed in and in the few moments after, I remember frantically assessing the situation to make sure our kids in the back were without injury. The driver came a few moments later and was hysterical. The whole situation was unexpected and messy. After we left the site of the accident with kids that were miraculously unharmed, not even a shard of glass was found around them, I found myself savoring the ordinary moments that followed, eating around the dinner table, simple conversations even managing sibling conflict!


God is in the ordinary. He is able to move in big displays of power, but often He chooses to show up in the everyday, unseen, often unnoticed, moments. It's profound. The God of the universe, majestic in all His glory, came in the most ordinary, way. Sure there were a few extraordinary moments peppered throughout the story, but at the end of the day there was a young mother, with her carpenter husband caring for a newborn in a barn, trusting God.


Life is a gift and so often we can miss God in the ordinary. It's easy to lose sight of gratitude when stress is high, tasks are many, waiting feels long or conflict is present. But gratitude is the thing that turns our brain back on in the midst of not being present to the ordinary spaces where God is waiting to meet us. God peppers the ordinary with his extraordinary presence and plans. Just like Mary in the midst, treasured up all those things and pondered them in her heart, where are the spaces where God is inviting us to do the same as we end this year and enter into 2022?


If you need some inspiration check out some testimonies of fellow church family who shared how they encountered God in 2021. You can access the link on our Faithlife page HERE. He is worthy to be treasured!


Seeking to treasure and ponder in the midst with you,

Mishawn

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GRACIAS!

Kharis – Grace, graciousness (as gratifying), of manner or act (abstract or concrete; literal, figurative or spiritual; especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude).


Last Sunday we talked about the grace of God being manifested in the Old Testament through answered prayers, favor in the eyes of authorities, supernatural healings, wisdom in the midst of difficulty, divine gifting for administration and acts of kindness from one person to another.


In the New Testament the ultimate demonstration of grace is the salvation given to us as undeserving sinners through the ministry, dead and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We have been granted forgiveness of sins as well as a brand new life that extends into eternity. That is one awesome gift indeed!!!


In light of that, what would be the most appropriate response from us? A thankful attitude of course! As a professional Mexican :) I can tell you that the English word "grace" in Spanish is "Gracias" which translates back to English as both "grace" and "thank you". This is not a coincidence as the two derive from the Greek "Kharis", so Grace and Gratitude go hand in hand.


As we prepare to celebrate that Jesus Christ came to earth and showed us grace by giving His life for our salvation without us being deserving of it, let us give back a heart filled with thankfulness. There is a lot to be thankful for: His mercies that are new every morning, His salvation, His protection, His provision, His faithfulness, His promises and much, much more.


I'm personally thankful for the opportunity to spend time with my sister Lisset, my brother-in-law George and my beautiful nieces and see the grace of God being extended through their ministry in other parts of the world.


What are you thankful for this Christmas season?


Join us next Sunday for a special time of reflection and rejoicing together as we look back at how we have seen God's faithfulness in 2021. Come ready to share a story of thanksgiving of where you saw God working in your life in 2021.


We will meet in the Foyer for worship at 5 PM for a time of worship and sharing. After the time of worship and sharing we will pull out some tables and JESSY will share a delicious Indian Meal with all of us.

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