Progress: 50%

This could very well be the halfway point of my time away from active ministry. I was taking time off when my son Asher was born, then some more when he was diagnosed with cancer, until I was offered a sabbatical to let me focus on taking care of my family, not to mention my own mental health.

Asher has been doing great. His treatment and the bazillions of prayers offered for him have been beating the tumor into submission, leaving Ash with a few complications and an occasional bad day. It’s hard to imagine how all this could have gone better.
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This is my new son Asher. He’s cute. He just turned three months old. The sad thing is, he’s had to spend a large portion of his life in the hosptial because he has eye cancer.

It looks like he’s going to be okay. I actually had the same cancer when I was born, and mine was much more advanced when they found it. They just took my eye out; Asher, on the other hand, is going through chemo so we can save his eye and protect him from future tumors.

He’s taking it like a champ, but it’s a rough road for our family. He just got home from a week-long hospital stay after getting a little infection just before his second chemo treatment. Stuff like that happens in cases like his. It’s unpredictable and emotionally taxing.

So, my pastor recommended we take a sabbatical, and I took him up on his offer. XLM is currently paused, probably until next May.
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Our Wednesday night Bible study will join the normal Crossroads Bible study. We won’t have any official events. But expect occasional blog posts here.

Don’t worry. We’re not done yet. This is definitely a case of Save and Continue.

Some fun for your Thursday.

XLM Bible graphic

Devotion: Passion for God, part 3

 Hearts
“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” —Romans 12:11
As passion wanes in other areas of our life, it causes trouble. In marriages, people can get tempted to look for passion somewhere else, leading to affairs, divorces and even something as simple but hurtful as inappropriate crushes. When you are no longer that giddy, all-you-can-think-about-super-passionate-in-love, it’s harder to be forgiving, to be kind, to serve that other person. When we stray or lose our passion for God, we do the same thing. When our passion wanes, it’s so much harder to serve at church when it’s something we don’t care for: cleaning toilets, ushering, spending another Sunday in the children’s ministry, forgiving the person who is endlessly mean to us, etc.
After a while it’s not only our involvement at church and with others that becomes difficult, but our journey with God can get tedious, hard, and even boring. We find excuses to stop attending church, stop caring about obedience and sin, start looking away from God for our love and fulfillment, and even can stop caring about God all together. Just like it’s important for us to keep your passion going for your spouse, it is even more important to us to keep or passion and zeal for God. And just like you have to maintain a relationship with your spouse, we need to maintain your relationship with God. Do you pay attention to your passion for God? What have you done to renew that passion when it wains?
 
Bigger challenge: Think about what you would typically do for a romantic relationship: go back to the place of a first date, buy a piece of jewelery with very specific meaning, memorialize the special life-changing moments between you two, etc. Now apply that to God. Do at least one thing to commemorate, remember or re-experience the passion you have had for God. I encourage you to go beyond journaling or just a conversation — make it a real out-of-the-norm moment for you and God.

Devotion: Passion for God, part 2

 Hearts
“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” —Romans 12:11
We are called to have a passion for God, not just in our love for him, but a “spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” It’s easy to serve God with a passion when it’s something we have on our heart or is exciting to our own tastes, whether it’s going on a mission trip, working with kids, singing at a Sunday service, blessing our best friends, etc. We should have an all-encompassing passion for Him that defines us. For new Christians, the passion is easy. It’s exciting. When you learn the truth, when you connect with a church family, when you finally see God’s love, it’s a whole new world. It’s all you can think about. God is all you strive for; you are happy to open the Bible, go to Bible study, and shout it from the rooftops. You run head first into it, and it’s exciting. You are happy to do anything at church because you are just happy to be there. As time goes on, that excitement starts to wane. Have you felt that passion for God? What sparks that passion for God in you?
Simple challenge: Make a list about what first made you passionate for God. Pay attention to common themes, specific moments, and people who were apart of your passion for God.

Devotion: Passion for God, Part 1

Hearts

“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” —Romans 12:11

Passion drives us. It drives our education, careers, hobbies, relationships, and how we spend our free time. People’s passion drives new inventions, creates books and blogs, saves animals, produces vaccines, starts businesses big and small, and even makes us choose one coffee shop over another.  Passion also drives some of our biggest mistakes, especially in relationships — the bad boy you shouldn’t have dated, the girl you lost because you came on too strong, the affair that destroyed the marriage, loosing friendships over politics, etc.

Passion, zeal, fervor, devotion, enthusiasm, intensity, or whatever you want to call it, there is a good chance you have it about something. But do you have it for God? 

Simple challenge: Answer these questions in your head, in a journal or with a friend:

  1. What are you passionate about?
  2. Is God on that list? Why or why not?
  3. Do you let God be apart of the other items on your list? How can you?

Game Night at Crossroads THIS FRIDAY!

Game night
This Friday, Extra Life Ministries will be hosting a board game night at Crossroads Christian Fellowship. We will have the usual favorites like Scrabble and Apples to Apples, but also some lesser known ones like Tsuro and 1960. You are welcome to bring your own game too. There will be a nacho bar and a potluck of snacks to give you energy as you get your game on. Everyone is welcome to join!

Crossroads Christian Fellowship is located at 5501 Dewey Drive, Fair Oaks, 95628. For questions email Brian@CrossroadsJourney.com.

Bible study notes: The Jesus Supremacy, Part 2

Last week we had a great bible study on the first chapter of the book of Hebrews. It was heavy in discussion, which unfortunately we can’t replicate for you effectively, but in this post we will give you a look at what we were talking about. If you missed it, don’t forget to check out part 1 .

This passage gives us a great hint to the nature of angels.

Hebrews 1:14 NIV

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?

They’re spiritual beings who are, by the accounts we read of people’s encounters with them, pretty fearsome. But here they’re described as servants. And we know that one of the ways they serve is as divine messengers.

Hebrews 2:2-4 NIV

For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

In this culture, when a messenger delivered a message, it was as though the originator of the message was speaking. That’s why you will sometimes see references to “the angel of the Lord” speaking, and sometimes it will just say “the Lord said.” Based on this passage, the Law was delivered through angels; that is “the message spoken through angels.” We can tell that from the context, and through at least one reference in the Old Testament.

Most of chapter one is devoted to demonstrating that Jesus is not just a mere messenger. This is really important when you consider the message. The beginning of chapter one sets Jesus as superior to the prophets—and as we discussed, His message is the culmination of everything the prophets said.

What is the author saying about the Law and the Gospel here?

Remember how strict the punishments were for breaking the Law? God will be just as strict with those who reject Jesus. The Gospel is the new standard. Don’t ignore Jesus.

Application: Are you trying to save yourself?

Really, the Law just demonstrated the fact that we couldn’t save ourselves with self-effort. That’s why God instituted a system of sacrifice; we needed cleansing. Are you drowning in shame every time you make a mistake? Are you striving to prove yourself worthy of God’s love, worried that you won’t get it otherwise? Are you judgmental of yourself and others? Don’t ignore Jesus. We’re saved by grace. Accept that, and act like it. Make peace with it, and you will begin to leave fear behind and move toward love.

Application: Are you spreading the Gospel?

How will the people around us escape if they ignore so great a salvation? This message is for all of us. Jesus has commissioned us to be His messengers, to use the gifts the Holy Spirit has given us in order to bring the world to Him—and maybe even to go and do signs, wonders, and various miracles. What is your part? We know this is God’s priority; listen for Him, and He will show you.

 

Please feel free to join us for bible study on Wednesdays at 7pm at Crossroads Christian Fellowship (5501 Dewey Drive, Fair Oaks, CA 95628).  We hope to see you there!

Bible Study notes: The Jesus Supremacy, Part 1

Last night we had a great bible study on the first chapter of the book of Hebrews. It was heavy in discussion, which unfortunately we can’t replicate for you effectively, but in this post we will give you a look at what we were talking about.

Hebrews 1:1-2 NIV

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.

Who is the author comparing Jesus to in these verses? What is the implication?

The author is comparing Jesus to the prophets of the Old Testament. Think about it: this is written to the Jews. The author is comparing Jesus to other people that had revelations from God. These were men and women inspired by the Holy Spirit, who delivered God’s messages to the people. They performed incredible miracles. They were heroes, and are still revered for their faith in and service to God.

Who are some of the prophets of the Old Testament? What did they do?

Elijah called down fire on the sacrifice on Mt. Carmel, debunking the existence of Baal and proving God’s power to an idolatrous people. Moses parted the sea to lead Israel to safety, led them through the desert, and talked with God face to face. The prophets predicted the rise and fall of nations. They faced death and emerged victorious. And they predicted that a Savior would come. As great as they were, the prophets were looking forward to the coming of someone greater than them: the Messiah, the Anointed One.

Application: Do we treat Jesus’ words with the proper reverence?

It’s easy to treat Jesus as one voice among many. We often give more weight to our own desires, beliefs, opinions, and deductions than we do to Jesus’ words. We don’t give Jesus the authority in our lives that He deserves. What influences do you allow to overpower Jesus in your life?

The First Noel, 2010

Originally posted by Pastor Brian Armitage on his personal blogon Dec 25, 2010. It’s a modern day look at the nativity story. 

gas station

The Hanukkah travel rush was over, and Bethlehem was quiet again. Hence, the corner where Ben Simon worked the graveyard shift hadn’t seen a car pass in ten minutes. He looked up from his English textbook and peered across the street, to the small booth where his friend Isaiah worked. They had both gotten late-night jobs at gas stations at about the same time, and frequently used faux company loyalty as an excuse to pick on each other. Diagonally across the intersection from Ben was a third gas station manned by Mordecai Steinberg. While Ben and Isaiah had the occasional squeegee fight in the middle of the empty road, Mo usually stuck to his booth dutifully, reading the Torah.

Tonight was too cold for squeegee fighting, and the batteries had just run out in Ben’s Game Boy. His parents were mad at him for working on the Sabbath, and he had homework due on Monday.

Ben was all but dozing off when someone knocked on his Plexiglas window. He started and sat up on his shop stool.

“Sorry. What do you need?” Ben rubbed one eye with his palm as he looked up.

Outside the window stood a young woman wearing a military dress uniform. She was all straight lines – vertical spine, squared shoulders, and perfect uniform creases. And yet her face was gentle, hinting at a smile. Ben had no doubt she could take him apart in a hand-to-hand fight, and no one would make fun of him for getting beaten up by a girl afterwards.

Her eyes grabbed his, very pale and very clear, and she smiled. “What are you doing here?”

All at once, the world burst open.
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