Humanity & Divinity United 3-19-18

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Hope is an interesting word. We often use it with a tinge of pessimism: “I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow.” However, biblical faith speaks of settled confidence in God and His promises. In a very real sense the incarnation, the act of Jesus, the Son of God, taking on human flesh, brought us dawning hope.

In the very first chapter of John’s Gospel, we read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-5, 12-14).

We discover that God the Son became human without ceasing to be divine. He became what He was not while remaining what He always was. In the fourth century, Athanasius expressed it in a way that has never been improved upon: “The Word was not hedged in by His body, nor did His presence in the body prevent His being present elsewhere as well…At one and the same time – this is the wonder – as Man He was living a human life, and as Word He was sustaining the life of the Universe, and as Son He was in constant union with the Father.”

This loving act of the incarnation allowed Christ to identify with us to the fullest. John declares that He “dwelt among us” (v. 14). Literally translated, the Greek states that He “pitched a tent” or “tabernacled” in our midst. Eugene Peterson’s Message paraphrase reads that He “moved into our neighborhood.” Jesus made Himself vulnerable in His humanity and by entering directly into our own condition, littered with frustration and hurt, tasted our predicament and embraced our despair. As Stephen Seamonds suggests: “This means that God has not only “spoken” to us through His Son (Heb 1:2), He has also “listened” to us. He has shared in the fellowship of our sufferings and heard our cries.” Therefore, the answer to the common question, Does God really care?” has been answered through the incarnation with an emphatic “Yes.” This loving act has a practical implication. Since God has come to us in such a significant way to meet us where we are at, we in sharing Christ’s love and message can’t do it from afar. We must “move into the neighborhood” too! It is when we invest time and meet people where they are at that the gospel breaks through.

The loving act of the incarnation provides revelation at its clearest. How do we explain the existence of God? It is not enough to say that God exists in the same way we might say Canandaigua Lake exists or that a certain person exists because God is in and of Himself existence. All other realities exist through Him. The simple truth is that if the incarnation never occurred, we would be left simply explaining what God is not. As a result, if we are to know anything about God in any certainty He has to reveal it to us Himself. God must take the initiative to show Himself to us. God has done just that through His Son, Jesus Christ. John explained it this way: “No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us” (John 1:18). The apostle Paul explained it this way: “For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body” (Col 2:9). God does not merely desire to communicate with us, but to commune with us. He has made this possible through a face-to-face, person-to-person encounter with the living God. God so loved the world that He went beyond a simple text or post and came in person. This truth, in part, is why the church, Christ’s body, is called to partner with Him in reaching those far from Him, yet close to His heart. The truth of the gospel is most convincing when it is embodied in a person or a community of persons. When others see us live our lives in partnership with Christ, they are much more likely to believe.

The loving act of the incarnation provides redemption at its finest. God has been committed to making right what went horribly wrong in the Garden, where Adam betrayed God and chose to do life his own way apart from the Lord. Through the incarnation, God took the ultimate step in that commitment. He showed His love for humanity by becoming human. In the words of Thomas Aquinas, “God has now shown us the high place human nature holds in creation, for He entered into it by genuinely becoming man.” Not only did God become man, but He did so, living in our fallen world, while remaining righteous (living rightly) and holy (totally pure). Because of Christ, we can be transformed. The word C. S. Lewis used for change is transposition, where a lower reality is actually drawn into a higher one and becomes a part of it. What Lewis is suggesting is that “Humanity, still remaining itself, is not merely counted as, but veritably drawn into, Deity.” William Placher, in his book Jesus the Savior, sums it up well: “When the word became flesh, what it means to be human changed for us – you, me the Opioid addict huddled on a street corner – because in one human being humanity was united with divinity. Now that is dawning hope!

I am thankful to do life with each of you sharing in the hope Christ’s incarnation has brought us as well as sharing His hope with the world around us. As God loved us enough to meet us where we are at, lets in His power, love others by doing the same as we share His love and message.

On Tithing 3-12-18

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When we boil it down, the key to life is to know Christ and put Him first in all things. The simple truth is that what we do with what we have reveals whether or not Christ is indeed first in our life. One of the best gauges to determine if we are doing this is our money or treasure.

Even before the nation of Israel God appointed a discipline called tithing to help us determine how we are doing at putting God first. If the tithe is an essential aspect of our life in Christ, then it is important to know what tithing is and why we ought to do so.

Some may use the term tithe to describe any giving to the Lord’s work. However, the term literally means 10%. Now since everything we have is the Lord’s we do not, in reality, give a tithe, but return it to the Lord.

Tithing is returning the first 10% of our income to God through His church. The Lord deserves our best. In Leviticus 27:30 we discover this explanation: “Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord.” Imagine I gave you a $100 bill and asked for 10% back and allowed you to keep 90%. This actually is what God does for each of us. Therefore, tithing is not something the Lord wants from us, but for us.

Tithing is also giving God my first and best so He can bless the rest. We discover this wisdom from an ancient sage:

“Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barn will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine” (Prov 3:9-10).

Tithing is part of God’s plan to bless us. When we give Him from among our firstfruits, He uses the remaining portion to bless us, so that, we can be a blessing to others.

Once we understand what tithing is it is important to know why we do it. Tithing provides for God’s work through the church. Look at these words from Malachi: “Bring the full tithe into thestorehouse, that there may be food in my house” (Mal 3:10). Theologians for the past 2,000 years have understood the Old Testament references to “house of the Lord” or “storehouse” to be the New Testament church. The Local church is the hope of the world, because it stewards the love and message of Christ to the world. Since the church is the body of Christ, giving to her is giving to Christ and the continuation of His mission to reach those far from Him, but so close to His heart.

Tithing also teaches us to put God first. This is plainly explained in The Living Bible’s translation of Deuteronomy 14:23: “The purpose of the tithe is to teach you to always put God first in your lives.” We are to seek God above everything else. God uses tithing to teach us to put Him first.

Tithing builds my faith in God. It is interesting that here God invites us to test Him. In Malachi 3:10 we discover this challenge: “…put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” When I give my first and best to the Lord, he blesses the rest. These blessings are not always financial, but they can be. These blessing may also include healthy relationships, or his peace, or a place to serve and use your gifts. The possibilities are many, but the fact is blessed are those who tithe and their faith God builds.

Some baulk of the concept of tithing and say it doesn’t apply to those of us under the New Covenant. In reality, Christ affirmed the tithe (Matt 23:23).  Also, biblically we understand that Christ paid the price for our sins, but that this does not mean we ought not to live morally. In fact, in the New Testament, the bar of morality is drastically raised (adultery to lusting after someone; murder to thinking badly about another; tithing to how generous can I be with what I have above the tithe to honor God and advance His work in and through me).

Some frantically proclaim, “To tithe will take some major change in my life.” It most certainly will. Sacrifice is a major part of the Christian life. However, our sacrifices never outweigh God’s rich blessings (Matt 6:3316:25).

We discover as we seek life in Christ and put Him first in all things, not only is God honored, but we are truly blessed to bless others. Let’s take God up on His challenge and give Him our first-fruits. I can’t wait to hear the stories of God’s beautiful provisions and work in and through each of us.

Financial Freedom 3-5-18

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Real freedom is found only in Christ. It does not take long for a believer to discover the consequence of trying to straddle two world-views. In fact, I believe all of us have wanted to proceed up the ladder of Kingdom living while trying to advance up another ladder of our own making. Eventually, such an ascent will be quite painful. You can’t climb two ladders leaning in opposite directions without finding yourself doing a split and getting stuck.

There is no doubt that Jesus delivers. He brings freedom. But, often the freedom bestowed on us by Christ is received while being strapped by the things of this world. For instance, I can come to Christ and be liberated while bound by the suffocating grip of financial debt. The ancient sage rightly proclaimed: “The borrower is slave to the lender” (Prov 22:7). All of this might lead us to ask whether or not the spiritual freedom we believers experience in Christ impacts our temporal reality. The simple truth is that the freedom we have in Christ not only affects our eternity but our here and now.

In Matthew 6 we discover Jesus teaching on Kingdom perspective. Jesus warns that greed, materialism, and worry stem from misplaced worldly priorities. We discover that all of us have been given the ability to choose between two masters. We can either choose God or something else.

What is the “something else?” Jesus chooses money to represent the “something else.” He could have chosen anything we tend to serve – anything to which we bow our knee. But, He chose money. Why? He chose money because money buys things. The emphasis is on the pitfall of placing your faith in money over God.

Therefore, the Bible makes it clear that we cannot serve God and money. Jesus powerfully explained: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matt 6:24). The word used for “serve,” in the original Greek, is the word for “slave” (douleuō). A slave can only have one true Lord or master. A slave is to give his master exclusive service. Jesus is making the point crystal clear that a disciple’s loyalties cannot be divided – that is, one is either a slave to God or money (“something else”).

So, does God hate money? Is money bad? The simple truth is that God does not hate money or designate it as bad. Money is morally neutral. By this, I mean money does not have the power to hurt or help apart from the decision of the one who possesses it. Paul instructs his young protégé, Timothy, that it is not money that is evil, but the love of it (1 Tim 6:10). The love of money is not necessarily the desire to have things, but finding one’s worth, security, and strength from money. Such an unhealthy love will drive us to make poor decisions.

As John Wesley explored God’s Word, he came to realize that biblically, a disciple of Christ ought to: “make all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.” The Bible actually lays out principles to assist us to live in financial freedom expressed through generous living. We are to serve God, not money. As we serve God, money serves us. Such a life is God’s desire for all of us.

Let’s walk in freedom together, as we trust the Lord to lead us from freedom to greater freedom in our daily living. No area straps Americans more than finances. As we partner with God, living by His financial principles, He will unleash us to live in financial freedom expressed in generous living.

Made New 2-26-18

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One of the rich blessings and promises of being in Christ is being made new. As we enter into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we identify in a very real sense with His death and resurrection. Our old-self dies, and we are made new due to the finished work of Christ on the cross as well as the power of our resurrected Lord reigning in us.

The newness we experience in Christ is positionally immediate. We move from those not in Christ (in Adam) to those in Christ. However, practically the old-self is still in play this side of paradise, so to be radically made new in a day-to-day living sense we must partner with God, allowing His Spirit to do the work of making us more and more like Christ.

In the book of Ezekiel we find a prophet, Ezekiel, in approximately 571 BC announcing God’s judgment upon Judah, to allow them one last chance to repent. God provides this opportunity knowing the people will refuse to do so. The result of Judah’s disobedience is catastrophe and exile. However, in God’s great mercy He preserves a remnant that will be delivered and eventually returned to the promise land.

In this book ripe with doom and gloom we come upon this promise:

“And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 11:19-20).

This promise is quite wonderful. God redefines His relationship with the remnant declaring that what they are really searching for is God Himself. This new relationship is marked by a “new spirit” and a “heart of flesh,” provided by the Lord, which enables faithful living previously impossible with a “heart of stone.”

There is a theological tension in Ezekiel between divine provision (11:19-20) and human endeavor (“make yourself a new heart and a new spirit,” 18:31). In the later they are challenged to repent and take responsibility for their own moral lives, thus the appeal to “make yourself a new heart and a new spirit.” The verse we have been examining (11:19-20) speaks of the Lord giving “a new heart” and “a new spirit” to the remnant. What we discover is a principle that is just as true for believers to today as it was to those in days of old. God calls us to partner with Him in this amazing work of making us new.

When we come to Christ, we are truly made new in our position or standing before God. We are His, and we share in the very righteousness of Christ (2 Cor 5:21). It is this new position that allows us to identify with the salvific work of Christ and partner with God’s Spirit to practically become and live out of our new position (Rom 12:1-2). This journey of newness is not a burden for the believer, but a blessing. God in Christ has already accepted us; therefore our journey of newness is one where we joyfully get to honor God while being blessed and being used by Him to bless others. Remember this encouraging promise given to us by Christ, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36), while “putting on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col 3:10).

Let us rejoice with one another that we have been made new in Christ while encouraging each of us to continue to partner with God in the richness of that renewal. This promise and partnership are at the heart of being Christ’s disciple who is actively making disciples. What a privilege it is to fellowship and be on mission with each of you.

The Blessed Life 2-19-18

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Over the years I have had many people come up to me and ask a variety of questions about God and faith. One of the more common questions asked of me is this, “How can I live a good (or blessed) life? Now I understand that this question is loaded with intent. Some are asking, “How can I get what I want from God?” Some are asking, “How can I get through life without trouble and heartache?” However, some genuinely want to know how to live in partnership with God and be blessed with a desire to bless others.

To be blessed means to protect, make holy, to favor. When we speak of God blessing us we are addressing his divine protection, His allowing us to partner with His Spirit as He makes us holy and Christ-like, as well as, finding favor with Him. One way I know I am blessed is because I am forgiven. The ancient sage David had this to say:

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psa 32:1-2).

In short, blessed are the forgiven.

As we explore God’s Word, we discover that only the forgiven are truly blessed. The Apostle Paul quotes Psalm 32:1-2 in Romans 4:7-8 explaining that the forgiveness David spoke of was in anticipation of the sacrifice of Christ as the ultimate basis for our forgiveness. Paul will later write in response to Christ’s salvific work:

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1).

Believers through faith in Christ has been justified and declared righteous by God, once and for all. The result is that the Christian does not live under the fear of judgment but has peace with God, which is more than a mere feeling, but an actual state of being – a reality. Not that is a blessed life.

Notice that David in Psalm 32 speaks of “deceit.” This deceit, which David addresses, is the deceiving of oneself about his sins. This deception can take the posture of one who does not believe in sin or at least that his sin is really that big a deal. Sin is a big enough deal for God to leave His heaven and come to die on a cross to cancel its power over those who choose to believe in Him. Yes! It is that big a deal.

David’s mentioning of a persons “spirit” is meant to emphasize that mere words do not bring forgiveness, but words partnered with a contrite heart (right intentions) do. Therefore, the words we use are not nearly as important as our actual admittance of wrongdoing and a desire to be right with God. Jesus provides the avenue by which we can travel down to find forgiveness. This forgiveness avenue is not just a blessing but indeed leads us to be blessed.

I am so thankful that God has offered us forgiveness in Christ. As believers, we are truly blessed. As we journey together, let us not forget to remind one another of how blessed we genuinely are and to share His love and message of forgiveness and blessing with others.

Resolution In Change 2-12-18

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It is impossible to live on mission and not embrace change. For instance, consider Abraham. In Genesis, we discover that Abraham is called by God to leave all that he has known to embrace our Lord as the one true God and establish a new kingdom that God will bless to be a blessing to the world. There are a ton of unknowns to Abraham that he needs to trust as knowns to God. The simple truth is that embracing this mission meant he had to embrace change. The difficulty arises that although not all of us to the same degree, all of us to some degree have a negative reaction to change. I often admit that I love change, but only when I initiate it. I find it difficult to deal with the change I deem as imposed on me. This is the dilemma my personality poses to me. How do you react to change?

Scott Mautz, in his book, Find The Fire, identifies the fear of change as an anti-muse or a fire dampener. In other words, the fear of change causes us to miss out on God’s preferred future for us if we let it. He notes:  “Our brains are wired to value longevity. Change threatens our sense of stability and robs us of our sense of control.” The good news is that there is an antidote to the fear of change.

To reverse the adverse effects caused by the fear of change you need to turn resistance into resolution. This begins by believing you are capable of change. This requires a determined insistence to your doubting self that you can succeed on the other side of change. It is natural to believe that routine or sameness is always good, but neither is totally sustainable or healthy for a lifetime in many areas of our life. Consider your walk with Christ. The Spirit’s work of transforming us is not possible in the life of a person holding tightly to their old life and way of doing things. Mautz suggests:

“Think of change like a software upgrade. Change can yield You 2.0 – a better version of yourself.”

At the core of our resistance to change is a feeling of becoming untethered. We feel like we have lost control. Of course, one could argue that one of the greatest lies we tell ourselves is that we are in control of much of the truly uncontrollable in our life. We seldom can control situations, but we do have the power to control our reaction to circumstances. Therefore, the fear of change can be lessened and eventually overcome by remembering what the change won’t change about you and the world around you.

When we are faced with change, it is helpful to become a learner and discover the reasons for the change. Allow yourself to embrace the strengthening case for change. It is helpful to even take a further step and get involved in the change.

Lastly, to overcome the fear of change focus on what you can control. We have the power to control our reaction to change. We have the power to either deliver greater chaos in the midst of change or calmness (God’s peace). We may even have the power to contribute to change being a positive experience versus a negative one as we lovingly help others overcome the fear of change.

Consider Abraham again. God calls him to live on mission. How does Abraham respond?

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Heb 11:8).

It is faith that leads to obedience to God’s promise and calling. Abraham lives out of the Hebrew writers definition of faith: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). Such faith is not a vague hope grounded in imaginary, wishful thinking. Instead, faith is a settled confidence that something in the future – something that is not seen but has been promised by God – will actually come to pass because God will bring it to fruition. Therefore, biblical faith is a confident trust in the eternal God who is all-powerful, infinitely wise and eternally trustworthy. When we are rooted in Him, our unchanging God, we, like Abraham, are able to embrace change and live on mission.

I am so thankful to be on mission with each of you. I know God has a preferred future for us as Crosswinds. I also know we will encounter change. Let’s overcome the fear of change together and embrace our unchanging God, trusting that what He has promised He will do.

Crosswinds’ 2025 Vision 2-5-18

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Peter Marshall wrote this prayer: “Give to us clear vision that we may know where to stand and what to stand for – because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything.” Marshall is speaking of a God-given clarity for our daily living. For a church, vision is a picture of what they believe God has called them to become and achieve for His glory. We discover this proverb on vision in the Old Testament: “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law” (Prov 29:18). I think the translation The Message is helpful in this case. It reads: “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.”

Vision is a snapshot of the future. Crosswinds’ vision statement is: “Releasing the Church to reach our region and beyond.” We, as Crosswinds, ask God to bless our gatherings so we can be a blessing as we scatter throughout our region and the world. As a church, we are looking out seven years. We believe… The year 2025 will be a landmark year for Crosswinds as we see the Finger Lakes Region saturated with the love and message of Jesus Christ. By the end of the first quarter century of this new millennium, we will see the transforming power of God spread across this region like a wildfire. Children, teens, and adults will be met wherever they are in life and personally invited on a journey of a lifetime. We will see thousands of Christ-followers embark on a discipleship pathway that will encourage and equip them on their spiritual journey. Through an intentional leadership pipeline, we will see those who know God and gather as Crosswinds empowered to scatter throughout our region making Him known in their homes, neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces.

Throughout our twenty-mile local ministry radius, there will exist hundreds of small missional groups, like spiritual lifeguard stations providing community, collaboration, and support. These groups will be accessible to every person in every community assisting them to live the life of freedom, fullness and faithfulness found only in Christ. These teams of fellow journeyers will collaborate with one another to share Christ’s love and message with those far from Christ, but so close to His heart.

To reach our local ministry radius and beyond we will have established an internship initiative. This initiative will serve, like a leadership fishery, where these interns can grow and be released to follow the dream God has given them and perhaps join the team of one of the dozens of Crosswinds’ campuses, church plants, and networks established with like-minded churches. The result will be beachheads in our surrounding cities and communities for Christ. Everyone in our region will have a repeated opportunity to experience the love of Christ and the invitation to receive Him as Lord and Savior. Those who choose to follow Him will be released to fulfill their God-given destiny.

We believe that God has also called us to share the love and message of Christ with those beyond our region, to the ends of the earth.  Therefore, we will trust God’s Spirit to allow us to spread beyond our borders, like a rushing river, by strategically training and sending ministers, pastors, and missionaries from our midst. We will also partner with mission agencies, both local and abroad, that share our desire to be a movement of God, establishing disciples and churches in other regions and parts of the world.

In short, Crosswinds is going to move from a church that is trying to add the next person to our Canandaigua ministry campus to building the kingdom through multiplication. We will be making disciples, establishing campuses, planting churches, and partnering with like-minded churches and agencies until we have reached our whole region and beyond with the love and message of Jesus Christ.

As Crosswinds let’s commit this vision to the Lord. I trust He will provide the way to fulfill this vision as we commit to partnering with Him. I ask the Lord to allow us to do more than support this vision, but pray that He will empower each of us to make it our very own.

Life-Marks 1-30-18

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Can you imagine being given a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle to put together without having a picture of what the finished product is supposed to look like? I would guess you could start by figuring out what the border pieces are and then fitting them together and start the process of filling in the puzzle. It is not impossible to finish a puzzle without the picture, but it is more difficult to do so.

I believe many a Christian is frustrated by trying to put the pieces together in their spiritual life, but don’t know the end goal. I have adopted Dallas Willard’s use of the word vim to describe three crucial pieces of spiritual formation. Vim is a noun meaning robust energy and enthusiasm.  The “V” stands for vision. The “I” stands for intention. The “M” stands for means. The means speaks of knowing the spiritual disciplines (i.e., studying and applying Scripture, prayer, service…). Intention addresses someone’s desire to grow. Vision speaks of having a picture of kingdom living. We need to invest time in the Bible and with godly people to begin to imprint such a picture in our mind’s eye.

Crosswinds have five measures or life-marks that we use to help us draft that picture of a fully devoted follower of Christ. We believe a vibrant disciple of Christ (1) reflects Christ character, engages in (2) sacrificial kingdom service, is (3) dependent on God’s Spirit, (4) sustained by God’s Word and prayer, and is (5) multiplying Christ followers. Although it is difficult to develop specific metrics to define when someone is consistently living within these realities, the list does provide a gauge of sorts that is helpful in determining whether or not a believer is heading in the right direction on their spiritual journey.

Jesus proclaimed: “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Lk 6:40). John writes in his first epistle: “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6). Obviously, neither Christ or John are challenging believers to repeat Christ’s unique salvific work on the cross but to mirror His faith, love, obedience, and self-sacrifice. Followers of Christ are to reflect His character.

Jesus calls His followers to sacrificial kingdom service with these words: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mk 8:34). Christ explains that following Him entails self-denial by letting go of self-determination and replacing it with obedience to and dependence on the Lord as one, in partnership with Him, continues the ministry of Christ by sharing His love and message with others.

Jesus makes it clear in John 15 that union with Him is essential to being His follower. He declares: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). Christ is not saying that apart from Him you cannot accomplish anything at all. After all, those who do not follow Christ carry on their ordinary activities, but we cannot produce spiritual fruit without being in union with Him. Disciples are dependent God’s Spirit.

The Scriptures clearly teach that we are to walk in the truth of God’s Word. Jesus explained: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples” (Jn 8:31). They also teach that we are to: “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17). As we seek to master God’s Word, we discover that His Word begins to master us. As we pray, we discover that through prayer we release the resources of heaven on our lives so that we can live the victorious Christian life, a life of trusting God in all circumstances. A disciple is sustained by God’s Word and prayer.

The Great Commission makes it clear that disciples make disciples. Jesus proclaimed: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19). Christ followers are committed to multiplying Christ followers.

These measures or life-marks help us draft a picture of a fully devoted follower of Christ. They help us know what we are shooting for as disciples as well as for those we invest in as growing disciples. As we continue to partner with Christ as Crosswinds, I pray we will see the fruit of many becoming followers of Christ and bearing these life-marks.

Values 1-22-18

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My Dad worked for a food chain that prided itself on customer service and the highest quality of meats and groceries. He was a meat manager and one time a customer brought back what she claimed was spoiled meat from his store. He exchanged the meat, even though the tag showed it was from a competitor. His company valued customer care and it was on display every day through the decisions they made as a company as well as through each of their employee’s interactions with customers. I have seen many food chains closed down over the years, but the company he worked for is still strong and expanding. Partly, this is due to the company’s values.

Values are those things considered to be important or beneficial. Every company, person, and church has them. They may not be spelled out in a document, but if you watch they will reveal themselves. At Crosswinds we have five values that are spelled out that we desire to saturate everything we do. Whether it is a Crosswinds’ gathering or ministry venture we are committed to assuring that these values are expressed for God’s glory and the benefit of others.

Crosswinds values the Bible and prayer. We understand that apart from Christ we can do nothing of eternal value. Jesus explained:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

We understand that two of the best ways to be connected to Christ is through exploring and applying His Word, the Bible, as well as dialoguing with Him in prayer. We want to move into His preferred future for us. Therefore, we desire for all we do to be biblically and prayerfully rooted.

Crosswinds values making disciples. The mission of the church is to know God and make Him known. We are to be growing disciples as well as make disciples. A disciple is a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ committed to knowing Him and making Him known. Jesus gave His church this commission:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Therefore, we desire to connect all we do to being disciple makers.

Crosswinds values generosity. We believe that God is a generous God and that we are not any more like Him than when we generously give of our time, talents, treasures, and testimonies for His glory and the benefit of others. Jesus presents this insight:

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38).

Therefore, we desire that all that we do be exemplified by generous living.

Crosswinds values connecting timeless truths with our current culture. Understanding that God’s truth is timeless truth, but that we live in an ever-changing culture. We are committed to doing anything, but sin, to call and lead people into an active relationship with Jesus Christ. Prayerfully we ask for the wisdom of the men of Issachar.

Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32).

Therefore, we desire to be culturally relevant.

Crosswinds values expressing God’s love in all things. God is a God who is not only defined by love, but actually, Himself defines love. God loved us so much that He provided His Son that through His birth, death, and resurrection we can be saved and walk in union with Him (John 3:16). Even when we were far from Christ, He demonstrated His love for us by giving His life for us (Romans 5:8). John expresses our need to love others with God’s love so powerfully in his epistle:

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7).

Therefore, we desire to express extravagant love in everything we do.

Crosswinds’ five values are held so tightly by us because we believe they are important in our desire to glorify God and bring the love and message of Christ to others, to know Him and make Him known. God cares about how we do, what we do, so we do as well.

I am so thankful to serve alongside each of you. Let’s ask the Lord to help us embrace and display these values in all we do.

Discipleship Pathway 1-16-18

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Discipleship is more a pathway than a program. There is no doubt that churches that approach discipleship as a pathway are far more successful in making disciples who thrive in Christ. With this said, people’s faith journey is somewhat unique to them, but there are defining moments along the pathway that are familiar to everyone.

At Crosswinds we have a discipleship strategy that assists people to navigate the four movements of our defined discipleship pathway. Our approach consists of three steps, REACH, TEACH, and RELEASE. These steps or ministry actions are meant to help people move along the path from BELIEVE, to BELONG, to BECOME, and then to BLESS. This discipleship strategy and pathway deserve further explanation.

As a church, we are committed to pursuing holiness (dedicated to God, serving Him, and surrendering oneself to the Lord being conformed to the image of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit). While doing so, we will faithfully REACH people with the love and message of Jesus Christ. We do this in the hope that people will take the step to BELIEVE. Using a familiar imagery from the Finger Lakes region, the pathway leads us first to stand on the beach curious about Christ. This first step is a time of vulnerability with God and self.

Once a person has believed, receiving Christ and His gift of salvation, they head into the water where they find themselves standing ankle deep. This new person in Christ is broken before the Lord (has a leaning toward His will). It is here that Crosswinds is committed to TEACH them to live the life of freedom, fullness, and faithfulness found only in Christ. It is here that they learn what it means to BELONG to Christ and His church as well as BECOME the person they have been created to be in Christ. This movement from BELONG to BECOME moves a person from ankle deep to waist deep in the lake water. A becoming person is growing in Christ through dependence on Him.

Lastly, Crosswinds will RELEASE disciples to pursue their full kingdom potential as they BLESS others. This releasing looks like a person swimming in the deep fully surrendered to Christ. This life of surrender leads to ongoing growth and investing in others who find themselves in various stages of the pathway.

Such a strategy to help people navigate the discipleship pathway seems clean and straightforward on paper, but actually can be a little messy. People don’t always move through the path as expected and the work of reaching and teaching and releasing takes time and a willingness to take a chance on a person. However, as messy as it can be it is so worth the commitment. I am reminded of this proverb:

 “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox” (Prov 14:4).

It is the strength of the ox that allows for plowing the ground that leads to producing crops. If you want the crop, you need the ox, and, therefore, need to keep the ox in a stable, which involves the unpleasant work of cleaning the stable. The point is that an empty stable may be clean, requiring no unpleasant work, but it won’t produce any abundance.

Discipleship can be a messy business, but we are called to make disciples. The fruit of people coming to Christ, growing in Christ, and thriving in Christ is worth all the effort. I know I appreciate those who took a chance on me as they led me down the pathway.

I consider it a privilege to serve alongside each of you. Together let’s commit to journeying through the pathway as we help others do the same. Let’s ask the Lord to continue to bless us as He continues to use us to bless others.