Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Taking a Sabbath

Sabbath rest is such a much-needed part of life that we in the Western Christianity have largely ignored and at times even criticize.  We live in a culture that rewards multitasking, long work hours, and an abundance of activities.  Even our vacations are so busy and draining that people often say they need a vacation from their vacation.  Persons who know the art of rest, rejuvenation, and Sabbath are often criticized as being lazy or weak.  And yet I believe this is exactly how God has wired us. 

God provided the model of Sabbath when He rested on the seventh day from all of His creating.  When God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments, the longest of all referred to taking a Sabbath each week.  Even their fields got a Sabbath 1 out of every 7 years in order to replenish and renew.  Peter Scazzero in his book “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” writes:  “Sabbath keeping summons us to slow down to God’s rhythm. For when we are busier than what God requires…we do violence to ourselves… And in doing violence to ourselves, we are unable to love others in and through the love of Christ.”

When we don’t take time to rest, renew & rejuvenate; our bodies, minds and spirits begin to break down.  We become shells of who God created us to be.  Instead of living at peace we become anxious, instead being patient we become hurried, instead of forgiving we criticize, and instead of loving we even begin to hate. 

We often think that we will get more done and be more productive with less Sabbath, and yet the opposite is true.  In the February 9th, 2013 edition of The New York Times Tony Schwartz writes: “A new and growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal — including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations — boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health.”  People are finding out the truth of what God already put into place.

So how do we do this idea of Sabbath?  Find time throughout each day to stop and be renewed by God.  Take a whole day each week to be stop and rest.  Take multiple simultaneous days each year to be able to listen and be refreshed by His Spirit.  What should we be doing during that time?  Peter Scazzero writes that we should stop, rest, delight (in his creation, other people, play) and contemplate (focus on God).  While this can happen anywhere, Crossroads has provided Deep Woods (cabins, prayer walk & trails) for this very reason. 

Begin with small steps so that it won’t be an overwhelming experience that soon goes by the wayside.  Learn from others that are practicing it well.  Just do something, and by that, I mean at some point stop doing and rest. 

God Bless!


Jason 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Vicarious Spirituality


Have you ever noticed that as Jesus, the long awaited Messiah, began his earthly ministry he drew large crowds? The people of that time thirsted for hope, hungered for justice, longed for a word from God and Jesus was their answer so they flocked to hear him, see him, touch him…at least for awhile. But in three short years the crowds grew smaller. In the end, even Jesus’ small band of disciples deserted him in fear and as he hung on the cross only a few were there to suffer with him.

How does the Son of God so quickly lose his popularity? It was always meant to be that way. Jesus never intended for any of us to live our spiritual lives vicariously through Him. He didn’t come to create a new cult and set himself up as the leader. His purpose was always to lead us back to life with the Father. Dare I say it…Jesus is NOT the subject…he is the way…the verb that reconnects us with God. Jesus wouldn’t allow his disciples to be satisfied with a vicarious spirituality that depended on him as the focal point. For that reason he challenged his disciple to grow up, to own their stuff, to speak out, to share, to let go, to try and fail, to be full and active partners in establishing the Kingdom that God has designed.

We continue to be a vicarious culture. Our real lives aren’t interesting or fulfilling enough so we live vicariously through other means. We vicariously feel important through famous people who have made it big. We live vicariously in the home of our dreams through HDTV. We vicariously run, pass, and play while seated comfortably in our easy chairs watching endless hours of sports programming. We vicariously experience romance through the Hallmark channel and adventure through Bear Grylls. We have vicarious sex on pornographic websites and meaningful friendships through clicks and emoticons on social networks… and on and on it goes.

Often, even our spiritual life is lived vicariously through the church’s weekend programming or through someone who we consider close to God…like maybe a pastor.

In this season of transition as I step aside as Lead Pastor of Crossroads church and as we wait for God to bring a new leader, I simply want to remind you that your life with God cannot be lived vicariously through Jesus, through a saintly family member, through a Bible teacher, through church activities, through comfortable Christian traditions, through me or any pastor from the past or that is yet to come.
We are all instruments to connect you to real life with God.
God calls you into relationship with him.
God calls you to be salt and light to the world.
God calls you to love as Christ loved.
God calls you to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God.
God sends you out into the world to make an impact.

Don’t settle for a vicarious spirituality!

It’s time to grow up, own your stuff, to speak out, to share, to let go, to try and fail, to live as a disciple, to be full and active partners with God in establishing the Kingdom He has designed.
Go live…really live!

Randy Bargerstock
Lead Pastor
Crossroads Church of God
Lima, Ohio

*Pastor Randy will step aside as Lead Pastor of Crossroads Church on July 31st, 2014 to pursue the next challenge that God is preparing. This is his last Blog entry on this site. He plans to share further reflections on his own Blog site in the near future.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Living with the Spirit

I was golfing with a friend who is a nurse and he was telling me about a doctor who is an atheist.  My friend told me that he was with a patient and asked if the doctor would pray with them.  The doctor’s response, “There is a saying that hands spread open can do a lot more good than hands closed together.”  When I heard this I thought what experiences does this doctor have that has completely robbed him of the power of God?  

While I was at IYC (International Youth Convention) there was a main session titled, “In Tune With Power”.  For the whole week we were talking about how we needed to be in tune with 4 different things; purpose, purity, power and people.  When I saw the one about power I was intrigued because power isn’t something that is talked about a lot.  When we read the story of Jesus you can’t help but see power, but when you look around todays churches, it looks like we are a bunch of powerless people.  Why?

The speaker referenced a pretty familiar passage in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  I would guess that most of you have read this passage before, but what struck me for the first time.  There seems to be a correlation between the power of the Holy Spirit and being witnesses.  In order for us to be the witnesses that God has called us to be, we must first be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.  This is so comforting to me as I reflect on it, because it not longer means that I have to depend on my own power and strength, but instead I need to be connected to the ultimate power and strength through the Holy Spirit.

The obvious question after this is then, how do we do this?  I’m learning that if I surround myself with people who are striving to live in this same way, living close to the Spirit becomes a much clearer path.  Matthew 18:20 says, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name there I am with them.”  The way that I connect with the power and strength of the Holy Spirit is by connecting with other people who are trying to do the same.  It’s in these relationships I experience the power of love, grace, mercy and forgiveness through other people by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I hope you take some time today to experience the power of the Holy Spirit; I am convinced that this is what the world needs to see.  They need to see the power of love, grace, mercy and forgiveness, and to be completely honest I need to see that in my own life too.


 Jake Kline

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Great Divorce

The other day, I was reading C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce. He is one of my favorite authors, and not for the Chronicles of Narnia. He is one of the great thinkers of the faith for our time.  The Great Divorce has nothing to do with divorce. The book is one long parable. Lewis writes this book in the form of a story, and it’s strange to explain, but I will try. The story is from the perspective of a man that has just died, and then is almost in Heaven. It’s kind of a purgatory-esque place where people who have died recently are gathered, and angels meet them. There, conversations take place. Angels come to meet people and ask them to join them in the journey forward, deeper into Heaven and to Christ. The interesting part of the book is how C. S. Lewis portrays these conversations. The angels are pleading with them to come, because the ghosts of the humans have to give something up in order to move forward. It’s incredibly interesting.

For example, in one conversation, there was a self-righteous man. He argued with the angel, saying he was only there to get what was rightfully his. He ranted and raved about how he had done the best he could and he wasn’t perfect, but he was a good person. The angel tried to convince him that he didn’t deserve anything, that he in fact deserved hell. The man wouldn’t give in. He was too proud, and chose his pride over moving towards Christ.

Another conversation took place between an angel and what I’ll call a controlling mother.  This conversation was hard for me to read, but not because I’m a controlling mother. The angel was begging with her. Her problem was she saw everyone in her life as they related to how they could serve her.  She ranted to the angel about how her son had betrayed her, when in reality he simply made his own choices. She ranted about her husband who abandoned her, when she really pushed him away by being overly controlling. The hard part of this conversation was at the end, the angel, at the verge of giving up, asked her if “you could, just for a moment, think of something other than yourself?” That was convicting.

The point of this book is for us to see Christ and experience Heaven, we have to give up whatever is in our way.  This isn’t meant in a physical way, such as giving up a nice car or house or something. It’s meant in a deeper way. I have to sacrifice who I am and what I love to find Christ. I have to put parts of me to death, in order that Christ can bring them back to life. This week I’ve been learning, through C. S. Lewis, what it means to offer myself as a living sacrifice, like Romans 12:1 says. The cool thing is this. On one hand, when we refuse to put things to death, to submit things to Christ, they eventually die as weak, polluted things, like the love a mother has for her family that goes too far to the point of obsessive control. On the other hand, when we put things in our life to death, such as lust (which is simply a polluted, twisted version of love), Christ breathes life into them. Once lust is killed, the love that can rise in its place is supernatural.

I hope this made sense. If not, let me sum it up. Christ wants us to put to death the things in our life that keep us from him, such as our pride, lust, or self-righteousness. He wants these to die so that he can raise His characteristics in their place.

What in your life do you need to put to death?

What could Christ do in your life if you were rid of that?

Will you let him? 

Andrew Saffell

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Assessing the Good and the Bad

When we look at the world, we see some good people enjoying happy lives, but we also see many good people leading very difficult lives. More difficult and hard to accept are the bad people who seem to be happy and doing very well, as Job lamented. Privately, we may tell ourselves that they can’t really be happy despite all of the evidence to the contrary. Perhaps we don’t want them to be. We want our full portion and payoff right now, whereas now the payoffs are partial, just enough to give us some peace. I do strongly believe that goodness is its own reward, with foundational joy, peace and abundant life, and that evil is its very own punishment, with ongoing anxiety, restlessness and some form of fear. But the full declaration seems to wait for eternity.

     We express a small and resentful attitude when we proclaim that atheists, evildoers, sinners, and fill-in-the-blank bad people are miserable. We live in the in-between of faith and should not expect perfect logic, retributive fairness, or final judgment in this world.


     We need to focus on our own life and be sure we are all we can be in Christ. Because I have failed countless times in this life, I do not dare make judgments about another’s life, when there is so much more work to be done in my own. And then, just maybe, those who have chosen to turn from Life, might see something in me, a glimpse of the One who gives life and they, may chose Life themselves. 

Tim Hubbell

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Trust

I am repeatedly baffled at what we humans will trust.

We like to echo the phrase “in God we trust” but the very paper this phrase is printed on reveals something we trust more.

We struggle to trust other humans because at some time or another someone has disappointed us, betrayed us, belittled us, used or abused us. Determined not to be duped again, our self-protective walls grow high and limit the possibility of real, trust-based relationships.

We do, however, trust the fascination of technology that allows us to connect with the world from the safety of our isolated fortresses. We trust information that is often biased and rooted in partial truth. We trust our personal information and credit history to vendors who would sell us the world. We trust our secret thoughts and private moments to public walls where we can be encouraged, challenged, ridiculed, pursued or bullied. We trust our hearts to services that promise to find the right life partner for us. We trust our need for deep friendship to a network of contacts that can easily “like” or “unlike” us. We trust our sense of direction to an annoying voice that tells us where to go. We trust our lives to distracted driving practices believing that response to a text message is more urgent than human safety.

Before you assume that I am “anti-technology” let me assure you that is not the case. Technology is simultaneously wonderful, amazing, and mind-blowing in what it is able to do now, and will be able to do in the future. It has facilitated great advancements in the human condition and story. But technology remains neutral. It has no capacity to trust or distrust. Only humans have that ability.

How can we say we trust God when many of our decisions and actions betray our loyalty and prove that we are prone to trust lesser things?

One answer: We dissect our words and actions by redefining the word “believe”. In the Kingdom of God, “trust” or “faith” is the essence of belief. To say that you believe someone is to pledge your unwavering trust in him for every dimension of life.

Somewhere along the way we discovered that it is easier to believe in something rather than implicitly trust someone. So we reduced our understanding of “belief” to verbal consent or agreement with certain truth statements about God. This redefining of “belief” also redefined our mission as people of God. If we could get someone to verbally consent to their depravity as a human and admit their need for God’s gracious love, then we could declare them a believer and our efforts successful. Consequently the world is full of growing numbers of God believers who have never been challenged to fully trust in God.

I think the 21st century church’s mission must recapture the essence of God’s vision for the world –to reconnect people to people, people to the created world, and people to the spirit and heart of God.

Trust, belief, faith, whatever you call it, is the mortar that holds us and God’s vision together. We have to start there.

From the Ancient Text…Proverbs 3:4-7 MSG

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil! Your body will glow with health, your very bones will vibrate with life!

Randy Bargerstock –Lead Pastor







Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The World Cup

by Jake Kline

This past week, I found myself doing something I usually don’t do: watching soccer.  Soccer can seem boring and pretty pointless at times (like when it ends in a 1-1 tie) but I love the World Cup.  If you don’t know what the World Cup is, all the nations of the world gather in one place and take part in a huge soccer tournament.  This happens every 4 years and this year it is taking place in Brazil.  For about a month, we are going to see nations become unified because of sport.  Say what you will about sports in our world, at times they can be overbearing, but very few things have the power to unite generations for one common goal.

As I was watching the United States play Ghana on Monday evening, they would continually show the reactions of groups of people watching the game.  By groups I don’t mean a couple friends at a bar or a home, but thousands of people. In the last few minutes of the game, with the score tied, Team USA made an incredible goal. The fans reacted like any fan would when their team pulls it out. Check it out.



Doesn’t that video give you chills?  A nation, united with one goal, regardless of age, race or gender, all kinds of people unified in one moment.  Beautiful.

It got me thinking, what if my relationships were unified with one goal?  I’ll be honest, I don’t always agree with the decisions the people closest to me make and that disagreement has caused division.  We have all been there, right? There is some conflict, and it’s just enough to drive a wedge in the relationship.  It’s not that we don’t like the person, we just say things like, “we are going in separate directions,” or, “we grew apart.” I understand this happens in life, but what if we intentionally tried to stay unified with our friends instead of letting life dictate who our friends are?  Why is it that divorce within the church is just as common as divorce outside of the church?  Why is it hard for us to have true authentic relationships?  Aren’t our relationships supposed to look different?  How come I look around the relationships in the church and see no difference between them and the relationships portrayed on daytime sitcoms?  Then I remembered something that Jesus says in John’s gospel,

            “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

As I was thinking about this, it hit me that the unity of my relationships with other people, no matter what kind of person they are or what kind of decisions they make, will be how they recognize me as a follower of Jesus.  Something should be different about our relationships as followers of Jesus.  Unfortunately mine tend to look a lot like everyone else’s.  Sure I may have healthier relationships than normal, but there are still relationships in my life that look a lot like everyone else’s.


What I love about the World Cup and the Olympics is that for a short time, the things that Americans argue about are going to be put aside.  Instead, we will be united as Team USA.  As I processed this, it led me to a very powerful question.  What would happen if followers of Jesus were united with one goal and one purpose: to go and make disciples of all the nations?  Instead of focusing on our division we focus on the one thing that brings us together, Jesus.  How would our community change if our church were unified in this way?  How would our families change?  How would our life circumstances change?  How would our relationships change?  Ultimately, how would our world change?