On The Independence Holiday

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This past weekend our nation celebrated, on the fourth of July, Independence Day, also known as America’s birthday in the United States. It represents America’s separation from British rule. When the United States gained its independence, the population was around 2.5 million. Today the population is about 330 million. America is not perfect, but it has proven time and time again when we allow the biblical foundation of our founders to bear down on us that God-honoring course corrections occur. America is not perfect. It took a bloody civil war to free over 4 million African Americans who lived in slavery. It took another hundred years for these Americans and their descendants to be given full equality under the law. Still today, more work needs to be done to ensure equal opportunity for everyone. As long as we live in this fallen world, we will need to fight to focus on Christ and allow Him to direct our paths into His preferred future for us.
America, as a nation, is a cultural and political mosaic. America is a place of possibilities and hope. Not everyone can embrace these possibilities and feel this hope, but we who are God’s church has the responsibility and privilege to do good by living justly, loving kindness, and to follow Christ by walking humbly (see: Mic 6:8). God calls we His church to be a “city on a hill that cannot be hidden” (Matt 5:14). Jesus’ disciples have the kingdom life within them as a living testimony of the hope and freedom found in Christ. It is this hope and freedom that leads us to walk and live in a way that brings glory to God.
Our culture today is quite unsettled. How are we Christians to live, especially in today’s turbulent culture? I would say that the very first thing a believer needs to do is pray. Prayer is not a passive response but an effective one (see: 1 Tim 2:1-2, 8 & 2 Chron 7:14). When we pray, we release the resources of heaven to work in the lives, and in the very situations, we are lifting up in prayer. I have found that prayer changes me as I seek the Lord’s will. Through prayer, He continues the work of making me an image-bearer of Christ and leads me to act for His glory.
As I look at our nation, I believe that most Americans honestly desire what is best for their families and our country as a whole. We may disagree on how to proceed into a preferred future, but we must learn to work together. We all have our faults and failings. We all are works in progress. No one is an exception to this truth. We need to seek unity wherever possible and offer mercy and grace at all times while standing for truth. Paul, writing to the Philippian believers writes:
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:1-4).
Here, the unity spoken does not imply a drab intellectual uniformity; rather, we are to use our diverse gifts is an agreeable, cooperative spirit, with a focus on the glory of God.
As ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor 5:20), we pray and obey. Praying, in part, exhibits and builds our trust in God. However, it is never to be an excuse for laziness. We pray and obey. We partner with our Lord, where He is working and leading, to see “His kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). With the Spirit’s leading and by His power, we are to be salt and light in this world. Believers are called to share the love and message of Christ with others drawing people to Him. We are not to reflect the hopelessness, rage, and social media madness of the world, but model hope in Christ, the real peace found in Him, and the true transformational power of God in the life of the person, lives of the family, community, and yes nation who places their faith in Him.
Lastly, we need to remember that God is still on the throne. We still live in a fallen world, but one in the capable hands of an all-powerful God who loves His children and has, through Christ, provided our true independence from sin and its eternal consequences. In Christ, we are offered abundant eternal life (see: Jn 3:16 & John 10:10). No matter how out of control things may seem, God is still on the throne and always will be. We need to trust and obey.
I hope that as we celebrated our nation’s independence, we did so understanding our true freedom found in Christ. We don’t celebrate a perfect nation. How could we as imperfect people? But we can celebrate. God is on the move. He has worked in and through our nation and continues to do so. We, His church, are still on mission to be disciples who make disciples who make disciples. God is good and does good in the life of a person, and people focused on Him. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Conflict

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When we look at Scripture, we discover that the family is the essential building block of human society. The family spoken of is both biological and spiritual. My wife, children, and other relatives make up my biological family. My spiritual family is made of every believer who has, is, and ever will exist, and in a practical day-to-day sense, my local church family.
God’s desire for us is to live in unity with Him and others. He wants us to experience wholeness in Christ, which is the fruit of the Spirit’s work in the life of a believer. The obstacle to oneness and wholeness in one’s life is sin. When sin entangles us, it leads to fractured marriages, shattered families, and broken people.
The first conflict between a married couple is recorded in Genesis, chapter 3 when sin caused a rift between the original couple (Adam and Eve) with God and each other. The first sibling rivalry occurred with their children and is recorded in Genesis, chapter 4, where, out of jealousy, Cain kills Able. Yes, the first family was a dysfunctional one due to sin, which brings conflict.
Conflict is a disagreement or struggle between two opposing beliefs. Some conflicts are minor such as the right way to put toilet paper on the dispenser. By the way, it is over, not under. It can be as major as the differences between parents on how to raise their children. Anytime there is a disagreement or struggle between two opposing beliefs, there is conflict.
Conflict is something that everyone will encounter. Some will even face conflict daily in relationships and circumstances. This is important to realize because often times when we go through a conflict, we feel as if we are the only one who has ever experienced it. Conflict existed with the first couple, the first family, and as long as there are people, this side of paradise, there will always be conflict.
Not all conflict is harmful. Some differences are natural and beneficial. Some conflict is healthy, presenting an opportunity to learn from another and strengthen the bond between people who seek a positive resolution. However, some conflict is destructive. In fact, many disagreements are the result of sinful motives and behavior (see: James 4:1-2). When conflict results from sinful desires or actions, they are too serious to simply overlook. They need to be dealt with in a God-honoring straightforward manner.
How we handle conflict matters. It matters to God. It matters to others. It matters. God is serious about unity and peace. He wants us to experience peace with Him by turning over the leadership of our life to Him. He wants us to have inner peace, which comes as we turn our lives to Christ and receive forgiveness and experience fullness of living in Him. Our Lord also wants us to experience peace with others for the sake of His witness (see: John 17:20-23). The good news is that God has a plan to resolve conflict that leads to oneness and peace with Him and others as well as wholeness in Christ.
Paul challenges us in 1 Corinthians to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Doing all to the glory of God includes the way we handle conflict. We handle conflict in a way that glorifies God when we trust Him believing He wants what’s best for all involved. We show our trust in Him by obeying Him (see: John 5:3). We obey God by following His Spirit’s leading of us through His Word – the Bible, imitating Him (see: 1 John 2:6).
Let me share three ways to handling conflict. Proverbs 15:1 teaches, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” All of us have been in a conflict with someone that has led to a heated discussion. It is important to take a moment to pause. Perhaps, you have heard it said when you get angry to stop and count to ten. This is good advice. When we are provoked, usually, our first response is not the best. Take a moment to pause and breathe a prayer for guidance. Listening also helps us give a “soft answer” amidst conflict. Listen to the person with the opposing belief and listen to wise counsel. It is incredible how knowledge gained from an opposing view and godly advice on how to proceed in a godly way can lead to a “soft answer” rather than “a harsh word.”
Then, I would draw our attention to Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” This verse addresses, in part, how to live like a Christian. Believers are to speak with extreme love and let their words be as appealing as salted chocolate (my interpretation). In other words, such character is attractive and God-honoring.  Simply put, choose your words carefully. Saying things like “That’s ridiculous” does nothing to advance the conflict to a healthy resolution. However, a phrase like “I see things differently” or “I have some questions about what you just said” lets others know we don’t believe ourselves to be all-knowing and care enough to work through the conflict with them to reach a deeper understanding.
God’s Word has much to say about how to handle and resolve conflict. What I have shared is not exhaustive, but a good start to dealing with conflict in a healthy God-honoring way. Ultimately, only the Lord’s Spirit work in our life can cultivate the godly character we need to navigate conflict in a way that brings peace and glorifies God.
It is not the absence of conflict, but the way we handle it that glorifies our Lord. We all will face conflict; this is a fact of life. But, not all of us will handle it well. Let’s encourage one another to trust God and challenge one another to obey Him by following His Spirit’s leading of us through His Word – the Bible, imitating Him. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Fatherhood

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God’s word clearly teaches that the family is the essential building block of society. The family spoken of is both biological and spiritual. My wife, children, and other relatives make up my biological family. My spiritual family is made of every believer who has, is, and ever will exist, and in a practical day-to-day sense, my local church family, Crosswinds. Dads play a significant role in both families.
I heard the story about a guy who stopped by the grocery store to pick up a couple of items. As he walked the aisles, he passed a father shopping with his toddler son, who was totally uncooperative. As he passed, he heard the boy asking over and over again for a candy bar. He listened to the father say, “Now, Billy, this won’t take long.” He came across them in another aisle, and the man’s son was a few octaves higher in his agitation. The young boy’s father quietly said, “Billy, just calm down. We will be done in a minute.” Later he passed this same father and son, with the son screaming uncontrollably. The dad was still keeping his cool. In a very low voice, that dad was saying, “Billy, settle down. We are almost out of here.” Eventually, this man reached the check-out counter just as this father and his son. The boy was screaming and flailing. The dad gave no evidence of losing control. He very calmly said, “Billy, we will be in the car in just a minute, and then everything will be OK.” The guy was so impressed with this father that when he left the store, he ran up to the dad as he was saying, “Billy, we’re done. It’s going to be OK.” The guy said to the patient father, “Sir, I couldn’t help but watch how you handled little Billy. You are an amazing dad.” The dad replied, “You don’t get it, do you? I’m Billy!”
I love the title of one of Dr. Dobson’s books: Parenting Isn’t For Cowards. As a Dad of three, I, too, know that raising kids is not for the faint of heart. Good fathers are made, not simply born. For a man to be a good father, he needs a model, an example of a dad that can serve as a pattern to follow. There is a perfect Father that all men can model themselves after. I am talking about the only perfect Father, our heavenly Father. We can learn much about fatherhood by looking at God.
We discover in Scripture that our heavenly Father loves his children (see: 1 John 4:9 & Romans 5:8). God’s love for us is complete and constant. We also discover that our heavenly Father encourages His children. God believes in His children. He sees the things we can do, and He encourages us to go out and do them. As parents, it is important to watch our words to make sure we encourage and not discourage our children. (see: Ephesians 4:29). Then, we discover that our heavenly Father disciplines His children (see: Deuteronomy 8:5 & Proverbs 3:12). The Father, who wisely and lovingly disciplines his child is reflecting the perfect character of God (see: Hebrews 12:10-11).
It is the responsibility of dads to bring our children up in the training and instruction of the Lord, displaying love, encouragement, and discipline (see: Deuteronomy 6:7). Fathers can either train and instruct their children following God’s example, presenting our children with a proper picture of God or the wrong way, creating misconceptions about God. The former assists a child in coming to know the Lord and the later repelling them by offering a marred image of the one true God.
Dads need to remember that there is one perfect God. But, there is a powerful witness every imperfect father can have when allowing themselves to be perfected by the Lord. It is also essential for dads to remember that God is a God of grace. We all need God’s forgiveness and grace, just like all of us need His wisdom. He gives these freely to those who humbly come to Him as Savior and Lord. No dad will father perfectly, but we can point our children to our perfect heavenly Father.
Let me encourage every dad. You have a significant role to play in the lives of others. God’s grace is available to you. So too is His wisdom to all who humble themselves and ask. Keep your eyes on the Lord and invite others to follow you as you follow Him. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Parenting

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I have to admit I was a perfect parent before I became one. I would guess this is true of all of us. I can remember saying, “when I am a parent, I wouldn’t (you fill in the blank).” When I became a parent, I immediately felt the weight of the task. As my children have grown, so to have I as a parent. I remember my youngest making a big mistake. He thanked me for handling it with such patience. I told him to thank God and his older siblings. The seeds that I sowed in parenting them he was reaping. None of my kids came with instructions. All three are different and need to be parented differently. However, although no individualized manual existed,  I am thankful God, and His Word has always been available to me.
God’s Word, the Bible, clearly describes God’s expectations for parents. For one, God calls parents to be good role models for their children. Proverbs 1:8 makes this encouragement: “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.”  Our actions speak louder than our words. This is never truer than in our homes. Kids learn values, morals, and priorities not just from what they are told, but also by how their parents act and react every day. If parents model a love for and dependence on God, it is more likely, their children will learn to do the same.
God calls parents to train their children in the art of decision making. We gain this insight from Numbers: “Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the people of Israel, saying, ‘This is what the Lord has commanded. If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth’” (Num 30:1-2). This makes sense. We need to keep our word. What is interesting is that under Israelite law, parents could overrule their children’s vows. This helped children avoid the consequences of making foolish promises or costly commitments. What is implied here is that children ought to seek, and parents ought to provide help in making decisions. This does not mean that parents should not allow their children to learn from their mistakes by bailing them out of every bad decision and consequences. Instead, it realizes that good decision making is an art that must be learned, and parents are called by God to teach their children how to do so.
God calls parents to teach their children the Scriptures and how to apply God’s Word to their lives. We are to follow the teaching of Deuteronomy 6:6-7: “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” We know God, in part, through the Bible. We learn how to walk with Him by understanding and applying His word to our lives. We are to ask His Spirit to guide our study of His Word with the purpose that as we seek to master Scripture, God masters us. We are to relate the Word of God to our daily living and, in our daily living, teach our children how to know our Lord and walk with Him. If you want your children to love God and follow Him, it is crucial that as their parent, you make God a part of your everyday experience. Parents are called to make an effort to teach their children to see God in all aspects of life.
God also calls parents to seek His will for their children. Look at the request of this mom: “Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, ‘What do you want?’ She said to him, ‘Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom’” (Matt 20:20-21). We can acknowledge that this mom probably didn’t really understand what she was asking, but we can’t question her heart in asking for it. She might have been misguided in wanting to see her boys promoted and honored. Although this is the desire of practically every parent. But, wanting to see them close to Jesus is a good thing. Simply put, a parent ought to desire for God’s specific will for their children. His will for them may not be glamourous, but it is always important. Parents are to want God’s will to be done in their children’s lives above everything else.
I am so thankful God, and His Word has always been available to me, especially in my parenthood. If you are a parent, caregiver, or a spiritual parent pouring into spiritual children, be encouraged. None of us are perfect, but as we are being perfected by God, we grow in our parenting. In the end, the greatest gift we can give to our children is modeling what it looks like to humbly surrender ourselves to God, seek His wisdom, and commit all things to Him, including our parenting and our children. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Divorce

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God has laid out his plan for marriage as a lifelong union. God knows this design is best. Straying from His plan has negative consequences. I have not directly been affected by divorce, but have seen the effect it has had on those close to me. My father was raised in a divorced home, as well as cousins and close friends. The rippling effects of divorce are far-reaching. It would be difficult in our culture to find someone far removed from the impact of divorce.
Marriage is the first institution created by God. It is also noteworthy that marriage was instituted before sin entered into the world. Scripture teaches that marriage is sacred, and God hates divorce, while still loving the divorcee. The Bible does not teach that God hates people who have been divorced. What God hates is the devastation of divorce, meaning all that leads up to it and flows from it. He detests what it does to those He loves.
God hates divorce because it tears apart the foundation of society – the family. However, the Scriptures acknowledge that sometimes separation is necessary and even unavoidable. In our fallen world, sin negatively impacts people and relationships. Nonetheless, those experiencing marriage difficulties should first seek counseling and restoration when possible and advisable. In our culture, many divorces are neither necessary nor unavoidable. When promises and covenants are easily broken, the very fabric of society is threatened. This is not good for any of us.
I don’t believe anyone enters into marriage and says, “I do,” thinking that the relationship won’t last. Divorce is not the goal of any sane person. There is so much heartbreak in a dissolved marriage. It is the death of a dream. The good news is that God offers redemption and restoration to all of us. His desire for those struggling with the aftereffects of divorce is for them to receive healing wrapped in His loving care. Divorce is never presented in Scripture as unforgivable, and a divorcee is never beyond God’s redemptive healing power.
I have a good friend who went through a horrific divorce, and she has graciously allowed me to share her story. Her parents divorced while she was a child, and she barely has any memories of her father. When she got married, she had God-sized dreams for her marriage, and as they had children for her family. She did not have a perfect marriage, no one does, but God used her and her husband to make a real difference in the lives of others. It was devastating for her when her husband began to make some destructive decisions culminating in his abandoning her and their children. After some time, she got a divorce. It was heart-wrenching seeing the effect divorce had on her and their children. After some time, her faith in Christ led her on a journey of healing. It was not easy, but the Lord was faithful. God has done such a work in her life that she now helps others hurt through a divorce. There is life after divorce. There are hope and healing for all who place their trust in Christ.
I would encourage anyone reeling from the pain of divorce to seek help from God. Allow His church to surround you with His love and support. The path to healing is open to everyone willing to take it with the help of God’s Spirit. In Christ, there is always hope, healing, and love.
No doubt, God’s design for marriage is for it to be a lifelong union. Unfortunately, divorce is one of the devastating results of The Fall. God detests divorce but has a deep love for the divorcee. He desires for all of us no matter what we have done or experienced to find oneness with Him and wholeness in Christ. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

On George Floyd and Our Nation

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Crosswinds Family and Friends,

I am sure your heart is aching as mine is today. Last week when I saw the disgusting treatment and murder of George Floyd, I was left speechless. The image still haunts me. I could not help but pray for the Floyd Family. I knew how this senseless act affected me, and I prayed for others who would watch and wrestle with all the questions and cry for justice. I also prayed for my friends in law enforcement. As a pastor, who bears the wounds of seeing others in my call abuse their position in unspeakable ways, I knew the pain they would feel seeing those who took an oath to serve and protect act with such evil and malice. As protest rose in Minneapolis, I was thankful that I live in a country where peaceful protests are not merely allowed, but protected by our constitution. I prayed for the protestors and asked God to bring healing and justice. Then, the rioting began. Krista, my wife, shared that a lady, who once was part of the student ministry I led and pastored posted that she was scared her restaurant in Minneapolis would be looted. I asked God to protect her and her business. As the rioting spread throughout our nation, I was grieved that it overshadowed the peaceful protest and asked God to restore order, bring peace, and justice.

I regret that I live in a time where prayer is downplayed and outright attacked as the act of wishful thinkers not willing to do more. Prayer is what our nation needs. I am reminded of God’s invitation offered to us in 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” We need God’s mercy, grace, and love. I hope, as a nation, we will humble ourselves, bow our knee before God, and pray.

Now, I agree prayer is not enough. I don’t mean that prayer is not powerful and necessary. It is our first step. It ought to be a believer’s first reaction in all things. We are to seek God, His path, His leading, and His power. But, we are to pray and obey. You and I are the hands and feet of God. We pray, then we follow His leading. We are Christ’s ambassadors (see: 2 Cor 5:20). We are “not to be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21). God calls us to do good by “doing what is just, loving kindness, and walking humbly with Him” (Micah 6:8). We are to “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isa 1:17). Doing good in God’s sight includes seeking the just functioning of society. Remember, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt 5:9). God calls us to bring His peace amidst the chaos.

Please, join with me in prayer for our nation and step out in obedience to our Lord’s leading with His empathy and love promoting justice and peace. I stand with George Floyd’s family. I stand with the protestors. I stand with the police who have taken an oath and rightly desire to serve and protect. I ask our Lord to bring order to our cities ravaged by rioting. I ask the Lord to deliver the rioters stopping their unjust acts. I humble myself before my God and ask Him to heal our nation. I ask Him to give me ears to hear and eyes to see how I can bring His peace to the chaos.

I love each of you. We have been given an opportunity to show up and be the church. Let’s be the light of Christ shining in the darkness. God is working and calling us to join Him in His great work of love, reconciliation, and redemption.

Believing with each of you,

Pastor Craig Cooper

God’s Family (Red, Yellow, Green)

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We are heading through this transitional season of phases into our new normal. It is exciting to make progress. I have been getting questions of when we are going to “re-open the church.” The truth is that we never closed. Crosswinds continues to know God and make Him known. I have been so encouraged by how my local church family has proved that the church is the sum total of God’s people who do the work of the ministry in the Spirit’s power and leading. We are not the church so we can gather, but we gather so we can do the work of ministry as we scatter. God has been faithful, and so too has my church family.
Now, I get it. When most people ask when the church will re-open, they are actually asking when we will again open the campus for weekend services. This is a good question. However, one that can’t be answered with any certainty until we can be assured we can do so safely, answering the reasonable concerns of our church family and community. We need to be able to provide a service that is inviting to guests and meaningful to God’s people while maintaining a solid witness to the communities where we live throughout this region.
Pastor Rick Warren, who wrote the book The Purpose Driven Life, coined the phrase that “God is more concerned about our character than our comfort.” This is true, but I also believe God is more concerned about character than our calendar. What do I mean by this? I believe God is more concerned about how we return to weekend services than when we will return to weekend services.
It is difficult to answer the when question. This answer is determined by some things outside any of our control. The how question is clearly answered in the Bible. No matter when we gather again for weekend services, God calls us today and always to be one, united in love, and in purpose. Jesus nearly two-thousand years ago prayed for us: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20-21). Our unity as believers comes from our participation in the unity of the Father and the Son. This deep unity of purpose in the bond of love is to be a convincing witness to the world that Jesus came from God. In other words, the way we act and relate to one another, as Christ’s church, either present a positive witness for Christ or a negative one.
It is important to acknowledge that people have different confidence levels as it pertains to gatherings of any size, especially large gatherings. Pastor Kevin Meyers of 12Stone Church, an acquaintance in Atlanta, Georgia, describes people in three categories. He uses the image of a green, yellow, and red streetlight to describe these three groupings of people. The green light represents those who can’t wait. They have their shoes on and ready to gather. Some estimate this group as comprising of 20% of our population. The yellow on the light is composed of those who are cautiously walking back. This group represents about 60% of our friends, families, and neighbors. This group wants to carefully process what they see and experience before they return to a church building. The last group, those represented by the red light, will not be coming back soon. They will remain connected online and through other means. This group represents about 20% of our population and is partly made up of our vulnerable population, as defined by the CDC (65 and over and/or have underlying health concerns). All three groups can back their beliefs by science. It’s not about right or wrong. Our higher call is to move forward together to honor Christ and present a positive witness to those yet to receive Him as Lord and Savior.
The Apostle Paul, understanding the nature of all of us to want to be right, writes: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). Paul calls all believers, in the power and leading of the Spirit, to do away with selfishness and conceit. He is not challenging Christians to have an inferiority complex. It is not about thinking less of one’s self but thinking about one’s self less. Through the power of God’s love, we should give honor to others rather than claim it ourselves.
I see this violated in the mask debate. Those who wear masks declare those who don’t as uncaring, while those who don’t wear masks call those who do foolish. We need to stop shaming one another. In fact, we need to determine where the other person is on the streetlight (green, yellow, or red) before we proclaim our light color. We need to humble ourselves and act and react loving despite our differences by the grace of God.
We read in Ephesians 4:1-7 Paul’s call and instruction on how-to live-in unity. It is worth noting that Paul is writing while a prisoner in Rome. He writes to show consideration to others, making allowances for differences and even shortcomings. This is a part of godly love bringing unity and peace. As part of God’s church, we are to preserve unity. Unity is not extinguishing differences, but loving one another amidst differences. After all, the church is one body by the one Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is our one Lord in whom we have a common faith. God is the Father of all the Christian family. As God is one, so His true church is to be one. We also discover than in Christ, every believer has been given the abilities needed to build up His church in the unity of peace.
Unity is not effortless, but we do have the power to live in peace with one another in Christ. We bow to Christ, and He leads and empowers us to lift up others. Through the Spirit, we can bear with one another. Why do we need to bear with one another? Because sometimes people act like a bear or we do. As Christ showed mercy from the cross, He calls and gives us all we need, in Him, to do the same. This brings glory to God, unity in His church, and provides a mighty witness to those yet to receive Christ.
When everything is said and done, the real win is not returning to weekend worship gatherings. Although I, for one, greatly anticipate us doing so. The real win is growing in Christ, and while making Him know, make disciples. This is currently happening in and through Crosswinds. By God’s grace and power, this will continue. Crosswinds’ leadership is looking to the calendar as to how we can continue to grow in Christ and minister safely in and through the phases leading to our new norm. We will gather again, but as we move forward together, let’s encourage one another to allow the Spirit to form Christ’s character in us. After all, this is what God desires most for us. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Singleness

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When I was attending a Christian university, it was a common observation that many a young lady was pursuing a “Mrs. degree.” This, of course, meant that the real purpose of her college work was to get married. This was a little unfair since many guys were there for the same reason. There is nothing wrong with desiring to be married. If you are going to find a spouse, a Christian university is not a bad place to do so. But, I don’t believe pursuing marriage for marriage sake is all that healthy. God wants us to pursue Him and allow His Spirit to direct all aspects of our life, especially our relationships. God can be honored in our marriages as well as in our singleness.
Singleness is not something usually talked about in our culture. This is especially true in the church, where marriage seems to be the highest of relational goals. No doubt, marriage is God’s part of God’s plan to positively impacting culture and His plan to populate the earth. On the other hand, it is important to note what Jesus taught about singleness (Matt 19:12). He explained that there are good reasons for not marrying. For one, a single has more time to invest in growing in Christ and in advancing His kingdom.
Marriage is not God’s plan for everyone. I would also add that the decision to marry is not to be entered into lightly. It is essential to prayerfully seek God’s will before you plunge into the lifelong commitment of marriage. Marriage is a big deal. However, Jesus did not teach us to avoid marriage because it is inconvenient or takes away our freedom. That would be selfish, focusing only on our own benefit. Rather, singleness can be a wise choice. Further, it is a smart choice if that is where the Lord has currently led.
Scripturally we discover that marriage and singleness are both gifts from God (1 Cor 7:1-11). It is often wrongly thought that one is morally better than the other. Both are valuable. I appreciated my singleness, and I now appreciate my marriage. In both seasons of my life, I was able to grow and be used by God in kingdom work.
It is not wrong to be single and desire to marry. But, it is important to accept and find contentment in Christ in our present situation. The Apostle Paul wrote that he wished that all people be like him, unmarried. He was not anti-marriage. However, Paul knew a freedom in ministry others who were married were not able to experience due to added concerns of spouse and family. Again, he was not anti-marriage but is expressing the benefit being single had for him. For those single desiring to be married, I would encourage you to seek Christ, not marriage, and allow the Spirit to guide you in all your relationships. I was not seeking my wife, Krista, but as I sought the Lord, He brought her into my life and led us to enter into marriage. God knows what we need, and when we need it. He is faithful.
Church cultural sometimes can make singles feel less than complete in Christ. On the contrary, in Christ, it is possible to live a full and fulfilling life as a single. One does not need a spouse to be “complete.” Only Christ can make us complete. Whether single or married, we are to find our value and purpose in Him (1 Cor 7:25-40). We find wholeness in Christ. No doubt, in a god-honoring marriage, spouses help one another grow in Christ. Still, singles can partner in godly relationships with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to assist each other on their spiritual journey. Actually, as the church, we are called to help others learn what it means to become the person we have been created to be by God. Singleness is not synonymous with loneliness. God is fully present in a singles life, and God uses relationships within His church to provide Christ-honoring companionship.
If you are single, know that you are completed in Christ. God has a wonderful plan for you. If you desire to be married or don’t, focus on Him and allow His Spirit to lead your steps. This is not bad advice for those of us married as well. Christ completes us, and we are blessed to bless others when we follow His lead. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Marriage

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God’s original design for marriage allows for godly fruit to multiply throughout the world.  The Lord’s plan is to use marriage to assist couples to experience oneness with Him, each other, and others. His design for marriage leads to a wholeness, found only in Him.
We discover God’s original plan in the first book of the Bible, Genesis. In Genesis chapter one, we are given the creation account. Then, in chapter two, we read, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper (one who balances him – a counterpart who is) fit for him’” (Gen 2:18). As we jump down a bit are told:
So, the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept, took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen 2:21-24).
God’s original design for marriage is a committed partnership between a man and a woman.
Our Lord’s plan for marriage is three faceted. First, the man leaves his parents and, in a public act, promises himself to his wife. Second, the man and woman are joined together by taking responsibility for each other’s welfare by loving their spouse above all others. Third, the two become one flesh in the intimacy and commitment of sexual union that is reserved for marriage. Healthy marriages include all three facets of leaving, joining, and oneness.
Then we read this interesting verse, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Gen 2:25).  God’s original design for marriage intends for there to be a relationship of growing and open oneness. Adam and Eve were not ashamed in their innocence. When sin enter’s the world (Gen 3), we discover that Adam and Eve feel shame and try to hide their nakedness behind fig leaves and hide from God. Since then, barriers between husbands and wives and God are present and need to be addressed through the Spirt’s leading.
People’s desire is to be in a relationship where their deepest need for security and significance can be met. This is ultimately only possible in the Lord. Jesus prayed to the Father, on our behalf, and asked, “That we all would be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17:21). Oneness with another begins with oneness with God.
The necessity in building our oneness in marriage upon our oneness with Christ is clearly seen in the four courses married couples often take in meeting their needs in marriage. Some choose to ignore their needs and only experience shallowness in their marriage. Still, others attempt to find satisfaction in achievement. They try to cover their needs, but basking in worldly success at work and elsewhere. These marriages merely survive, but do so with a tremendous relational chasm existing between husband and wife. Others attempt to meet their needs in each other. This leads to exhaustion and frustration as it becomes clear that two imperfect people cannot meet the deepest needs (security and significance) of one another. Finally, some depend on the Lord to meet their needs. Such a couple discovers wholeness in Christ, which allows for their marriage to flourish since it’s built upon the Lord.
We ought not to expect our spouse to be or do what only God can do and be. God’s original design for marriage is only possible when both a husband and wife have a growing relationship with Him. Remember, God’s design for marriage provides a plan whereby He allows a couple to experience oneness with Him, each other, and others. God’s original design for marriage leads to a wholeness, found only in the Lord. As a couple experience oneness with Christ, they are empowered to experience oneness with each other and others that will produce godly fruit in the world.
Let’s be encouraged and encourage others, in their marriage, to do what is necessary to meet the challenge of committed partnership with one another. Let’s encourage those married to do the loving work of advancing a growing and open oneness in their marriage relationship. Let’s remember that the key to a healthy marriage is one built upon a husband and a wife having a growing relationship with God. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Motherhood

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It is apparent throughout the Bible that the family is the essential building block of human society. This is true of biological family’s as well as spiritual ones (God’s Church). It only makes sense then that the health of families matter. This is why it’s so important to acknowledge that whether you are married, divorced, single, or a parent, God has a plan to lead you to oneness with Him, and others and desires for you to experience a wholeness found only in Christ.
Let’s focus a bit on moms. Moms, both biological moms, and spiritual moms, who are not biologically so but spiritually are pouring into spiritual children, can make a significant impact on others. How can they do so? I want to look at an interesting verse from 1 Thessalonians. Paul writes:
“We were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thess 2:7-8).
Paul compares himself, and the team of people with whom he planted the church in Thessalonica, to a godly mom. In doing so, he emphasizes two things. First, godly moms are called to express self-giving love (v. 7). Self-giving love is not thinking less of yourself, but less thinking of yourself for the benefit of others.
My youngest child was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. He had routine doctor appointments at the All Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, MN, that was two hours from our home in Wisconsin. My wife, Krista, set aside her career and sacrificially took our child to these appointments for the first few years of his life. If you were to make a fuss about it, she would respond by downplaying the sacrifice. Krista displayed self-giving love.
Many moms demonstrate self-giving love to their children. When moms show self-giving love to others, they are reflecting God’s love toward us (see: 1 John 4:7-11). God loves us with a self-giving love. He calls moms, in the same manner, to love others. In fact, He calls all of us to demonstrate a self-giving love to others.
Second, godly moms are called to give both their care and their knowledge. It has been said that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Paul, like a good mom, gave both his care and his knowledge.
My mom’s wisdom was always packaged in care. I’m not saying that I consistently listened to her nor that I always appreciated it when she shared her knowledge with me. But, I can tell you that she didn’t just share her knowledge, then demonstrate no care for me. She cared deeply for my brother and me, and therefore her sharing of her knowledge was that much more powerful and palatable.
When moms or anyone else, for that matter, give both their care and knowledge, they are following God’s example. God has not merely given us His word or declared His love for us. He has demonstrated His love for us. Jesus did not die for righteous people or those who have done right for others, but for sinners, that is, for ungodly, unrighteous people living in rebellion against God (see: Rom 5:8). Jesus died for you and me. He has not just shared His knowledge with us through the Bible but has wrapped up the gift of His knowledge in the package of His caring love. This is why we are to share the love and message of Christ with others. God intends for His message to be shared in a package of genuine care.
God gives us both His care and knowledge. He calls moms to give both their care and knowledge. In fact, He calls all of us to give our care and knowledge to others. Moms, and actually each of us, can make a significant impact on our children, family, and those around us.
This occurs when we allow God to work in and through us by expressing self-giving love and giving our care and knowledge to others.
I want to celebrate all the moms (biological and spiritual) who take their call seriously, making an impact in the lives of their children, families, and others. Proverbs 31:28, when speaking of such a mom, declares that “her children will rise up and call her blessed.” Mom’s thank you for pouring your lives into others. I praise God for moms who worship and adore the Lord and pass this legacy along to others.
Let me encourage each of us to follow the example of our Lord and godly moms and express self-giving live to others. Let’s give our care and knowledge to those around us. No doubt, moms, and actually each of us, can make a significant impact on our children, family, and the world around us. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!