Pastor Dan’s third sermon on Deuteronomy, “Obedience” is now available online. Have a listen!

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This week Pastor Dan led us through Deuteronomy 4. In this chapter, Moses encourages the Israelites to listen to the law of the Lord and obey it so that they “may live and may go in and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you” (Deut. 4:1). He reminds them of God’s great deeds on their behalf and he emphasizes that there is one God, the Lord, Yahweh of Israel.

Like Pastor Dan mentioned, many of us tend to hear the word “law” in the Old Testament, and either immediately get bored, or quickly flip to the New Testament because that’s where we think the grace is. But guys, that’s not the way it is!

As I studied Old Testament, I was blown away by the grace God shows throughout its pages. As I learned about Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) culture, a few things struck me about God, the law, and the Israelites.

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* Sometimes people tend to think that the Israelites followed the law as way to be saved. But I don’t think that this was ever the mindset the Israelites had about what the law was. If we look at the Exodus, God defeats the “gods” of Egypt. He then brings the Israelites out of Egypt, parts the Red Sea, and seals His victory and their freedom. As the Israelites watch what God does at the Red Sea, the Bible says, “And when the Israelites saw the great power of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant” (Exodus 14:31).

Immediately after this, they sing a song to the Lord on the shores of the Red Sea. “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him” (Exodus 15:2). The Exodus was the Israelites’ salvation event. God saved them and they became His people. This is why Passover becomes such a big deal — the Israelites take time each year to remember their salvation event. This is why there are so many parallels between the Exodus and the acts and messages of Jesus. He deliberately does things that remind people of the Exodus to show that He is bringing salvation. (We’ll discuss this more in the spring when we learn about and celebrate the holiday of Passover!)

* So, if the Israelites didn’t follow the law for salvation, why did they? Like Pastor Dan said, the Lord gave the Israelites the law because it was good and for their benefit. Not only did it show them the best way to live, but if they followed the law, the nations around them would notice and be drawn to the God of Israel. In Christopher J.H. Wright’s book, The Mission of God’s People, he points out that Deuteronomy 4:5-8 emphasizes this — the things the nations will notice the most is the wisdom of God, the nearness of God to His people, and the righteousness of the law. “Israel would have an intimacy with God and a quality of social justice that no other nation could match.” Therefore, Wright says, Deuteronomy 4 is important and gives the “major motivation that is remarkable in its wider perspective. It puts Israel’s obedience on a wide open stage and invites them to envisage what the nations will think as they observe the national life of the people whose God is YHWH.”

So, God will be honored and glorified when His people live a certain way. Those who don’t know Yahweh God will be aware of who He is because of the lives of His people.

* Another big aspect of the law in the Bible relates to the gift of the land of Israel. In ANE culture, a people group was defined by its land. We see this over and over throughout the Bible — the land God gave to Israel was a blessing and could be taken from them if they failed to obey. The physical land of Israel is also related to the observance of the law. The fact that God brought the Israelites out of Egypt and gave them a new land is amazing. But when the Israelites agreed to obey the law, God gave them a warning. If they failed to obey Him, they were in danger of losing the land He gave them. “After you have had children and grandchildren and have lived int he land a long time — if you then become corrupt and make any kind of idol, doing evil in the eyes of the Lord your God and provoking him to anger, I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you this day that you will quickly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess. You will not live there long but will certainly be destroyed The Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and only a few of you will survive among the nations to which the Lord will drive you” (Deut. 4:25-27).

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Well, Israel does begin to disobey. This is where the prophets come in — they go talk to the Israelites and remind them of what they committed to. Instead of following God’s law, they are worshiping idols, mistreating the poor and needy, and neglecting the widow. They forsake the Lord as their one true God, and the prophets warn that if they do not repent and go the other direction, God will take away the blessing of the land.

The people don’t turn around. They continue to disobey, and in 722 BC, the northern nation of Israel falls to the Assyrians, and in 586 BC, the southern nation of Judah falls to the Babylonians. They lose their land. We see in the books of Daniel, Esther, Ezekiel, Ezra and Nehemiah, that the people are gone from the land of Israel and lamenting their loss. When they are finally allowed back, 70 years after the destruction of Jerusalem, they are sad and broken.

It is after the Israelites return to their land from the exile that we see attitudes about the law begin to change. After losing the blessing of the land because of disobedience, they finally begin to get it together. Where all throughout the Old Testament we see a neglect for the law, we suddenly come to the New Testament and it seems like people are overly obsessed with the law and Jesus is always having to reprimand them for it.

It is in the time between the Old and New Testaments that we begin to see groups like the Pharisees and Sadducees form. After the exile from the land, the Jewish people finally understood that God took the law and obedience seriously. He wanted His people to follow the law and walk in His way so that it would go well with them. So, for example, the Pharisees encouraged the people to obey God like they should. Their intentions were good, but by New Testament times, the Pharisees had added a whole bunch of extra laws to what God commanded. They became too legalistic. So when we see Jesus upset with the Pharisees in the New Testament, it is because they have added to the original law and given the people a heavy burden to bear. It is helpful to remember this when we’re reading the New Testament. It can help us differentiate between the law that God calls good and where it had been added to and made a burden by New Testament times.

There’s obviously so much more we could discuss in relation to the law — we’ve barely scratched the surface — but this post is long enough for today! Would love to hear your thoughts!

* What comes to mind when you hear about the biblical law?

 

I love a good party. One of my favorite things to do is host people in my home, usually for a big event I’ve dreamed up. I love having Christmas parties, Easter dinners, or even football Sunday get-togethers. (Yes, I’m American. Sunday is football day — after church, of course!) For a couple of years, I even made up reasons to have parties. I hosted “An Evening of Sophistication,” where I invited friends to dress in their finest duds and come over for fancy appetizers and sophisticated conversation by candlelight.

As I studied the Old Testament at seminary, I discovered something amazing — God loves a good party too! In fact, God gave His people seven holidays to celebrate each year, six of which are full of instructions to eat good food, spend time with family, and mainly, to rejoice in God’s goodness!

465137841Since we are currently going through the book of Deuteronomy in Pastor Dan’s series, “Not By Bread Alone,” I thought this year would be a great time to celebrate and learn about the biblical holidays together. I have celebrated them before, and they are so fun and meaningful.

Each of the holidays God asked His people to celebrate can be found in Deuteronomy 16, Leviticus 23, and Numbers 28–29. There are three holidays in the fall (Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Feast of Booths) and four in the spring (Passover, First Fruits, Unleavened Bread, and Pentecost). There are two other holidays (Hanukkah and Purim) that weren’t commanded by God, but are mentioned in the Bible and would have been celebrated by Jesus. We’ll take a look at those this year too!

Each holiday has specific instructions for what to do, certain foods to eat, and ways to remember God’s faithfulness. Most of these holidays are very joyful — God commanded His people to celebrate!

CrossRoads Kids already spend time learning about the biblical holidays when they stop to Remember and Celebrate through their Tru curriculum every few weeks. But why should they get to have all the fun?

So, during the week of each of the holidays this year, I will write a blog post and put up some pictures of whoever I can wrangle from the CrossRoads staff to celebrate with me. I’ll explain the holiday as God talks about it in the Bible, I’ll talk about how Jesus celebrated or fulfilled each holiday, and I’ll share some of the modern traditions associated with the Jewish celebrations of each holiday today.

Next week is the Feast of Trumpets (also known as Rosh HaShanah). It’s the Jewish new year, and one of the traditions is baking and eating challah bread! (Hopefully I won’t burn it.)

I’m excited for us to learn about these holidays together! Before I looked into them, I didn’t know much about these festivities, and my eyes were opened to how much God encouraged His people to celebrate, have fun, and remember His good deeds!

So, check back next week as we explore the Feast of Trumpets and get started on our year-long celebration of our God who invites us to know Him and rejoice in all that He has done!

Pastor Dan’s second sermon, “Remember” in the “Not By Bread Alone” series on Deuteronomy is available online if you missed it or want to hear it again!

So, we got to hear more about Deuteronomy yesterday, and I am just loving us being able to dig into God’s word and recognize that all of it — Old and New Testament — is useful to us.

When I was at seminary, I took four semesters of Hebrew. Four. Ugh. Hebrew was a real challenge for me. It’s a whole new alphabet, new sounds, new vocabulary, etc. It takes a lot of time to learn to read the Bible in its original language. However, I am so glad that I did it! As I learned Hebrew, I was amazed by how much it taught me about God and His people.

IMG_1073One thing that I noticed as I learned Hebrew is that so often when we see the English word “you” in our Bibles, in Hebrew it is a plural “you all.” The plural “you all” was all over our text in Deuteronomy yesterday as Moses addressed the Israelites as an entire community.

In general, people in North America and Europe are influenced by Greek thought, which means we tend to think fairly individualistically. However, the Bible was written in an Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) culture where people tended to think as a community. The book, Teaching the Bible in the Church says, “In the ancient cultures reflected in the Bible there is much more a corporate sense of who a person is. As we mentioned earlier in this chapter, when in our culture we hear someone say ‘you,’ we hear that as an address to a single individual; we hear ‘me.’ However, in the ancient cultures reflected in the Bible, the dominant way in which ‘you’ was understood was plural, an address not to an individual but to a community.”

That communal mindset was very common in ANE culture and is actually still quite relevant in the Middle East today. And we see this a lot in our Deuteronomy text. Yesterday we were reading in Deuteronomy 1–4, and Moses spends time recounting how the Israelites sinned against God, which is the reason it took them 40 years (instead of 11 days) to arrive at the Promised Land.

I mean, they were supposed to go from Sinai to Kadesh Barnea. Look at how quickly they could have arrived if they had just obeyed!

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As Moses talks in Deuteronomy, he says things like, “But you were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God” (Deut. 1:26). Moses speaks to these people like they were the ones who were too afraid to go into the Promised Land all those years before. But the generation of people who had disobeyed God had died out by the time Moses gave his sermon. The people listening were their descendents. If I were there listening to Moses with my modern mindset, I would want to raise my hand and say, “Hey, Moses. I wasn’t the one who disobeyed God. That was my dad. I’m not responsible for what he did.”

But this communal mindset is very common in the Bible. Entire communities are addressed — the sins of one person often affect others. For example, in Joshua 7, Israel loses a battle at Ai because a man named Achan stole some of the things that belonged to God. Achan is found out and he — along with all of his family — are put to death. This is so difficult to my mind because it seems really unfair that Achan’s family died too. But the Eastern mind thought much less individually and much more communally. That’s why a good king could bring blessings to Israel, and a father’s sins would be felt by his descendents. That’s why, as Pastor Dan mentioned yesterday, the sins of Israel affected Moses, which he writes about in Psalm 90.

So in Deuteronomy as Moses calls Israel to remember, he speaks to the whole community. He talks as though this generation was the one who sinned against God 40 years before. He does this to cement in their memory their identity — God freed them from slavery and invites them to obey and follow His way because it is the best way to live. Moses asks them to remember God’s identity — He is a warrior who fights for them, a father who loves them and a guide who protects them.

So, some things I thought we could maybe discuss together:

* As we think about community and what Pastor Dan said about remembering yesterday, what are some ways we can focus on remembering together?

* Are there any Bible passages that have confused you that might make more sense when understood through the lens of community?

* How has God shown up in your life — how has He reminded you of who He is? Share in the comments so we can remember His great deeds together as a community of believers!

Pastor Dan started his series on Deuteronomy yesterday! If you missed it or just want to hear it again, make sure to check it out online.

I am actually so excited for Pastor Dan’s focus on Deuteronomy over the next number of months. I love the Old Testament. In fact, I love it so much that I got my Master’s in Old Testament Biblical Studies (weird, I know). Although seminary was a painful process at times (so many Hebrew translations!), it was such a good way for me to dig deeper into God’s word. And the Old Testament (OT) is such a crucial part of understanding God’s big story — it is His drama of redemption and grace!

Because I love the OT so much, I am hoping to blog about Deuteronomy each week as Pastor Dan leads us in our study on Sundays. I think it will be a great chance for us to dig into the book and share our thoughts as we process together!

I loved Pastor Dan’s sermon — such an excellent reminder of God’s love for each of us! As he mentioned yesterday, Deuteronomy takes place as the Israelites are about to enter in to their new Promised Land. After wandering in the desert for 40 years, Moses speaks to the people through four final sermons before he passes leadership on to a man named Joshua.

Pastor Dan talked about how Deuteronomy is separated into four topics: remembering, law, renewal, and blessing. I’m excited for us to hear more about each of these topics, because when we truly understand what God is doing in these passages, we can see how beautiful, intricate and full-of-grace the story of Deuteronomy is.

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One thing that stood out to me yesterday in Pastor Dan’s sermon was the importance of understanding that Deuteronomy is a renewal of the covenant the Israelites and God had made. Forty years previous, God had rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Because of God’s saving action, the Israelites decided they wanted to follow Him. So God and the Israelites made a covenant. We see this covenant ceremony in Exodus 19 as the Israelites prepare themselves to meet with the Lord and then He descends on Mt. Sinai in smoke and fire. In Exodus 20, we begin to see the terms of the covenant laid out as God gives the 10 Commandments. In Exodus 24, the covenant is confirmed — “When Moses went and told the people all the Lord’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, ‘Everything the Lord has said we will do.’

Pastor Dan mentioned this yesterday, and it’s worth repeating. The covenant process we see in Exodus was very common in the Ancient Near East (ANE). This process was something the Israelites would have understood culturally. God stepped in and saved them from slavery. Because of God’s saving action, the Israelites were ready and willing to take on the terms of the covenant (the 10 Commandments and the rest of the law) because of what He had done. They were not forced into following the law. They chose to as a grateful response for what God had done for them! The law — the terms of this covenant — was the way they would follow God and represent His character to the nations around them.

So as we start out Deuteronomy, we see that Moses and the Israelites are renewing their covenant with God. The way the book of Deuteronomy is laid out is extremely similar to other covenant renewal contracts of that time. Moses reminds the Israelites of all that God has done — he asks them to remember God’s amazing acts in their lives. He then reminds them of the terms of the covenant — the law God gave them. They then renew the covenant and end with Moses’ blessings on the tribes. The Israelites would have understood this process because the nations around them would have done similar things with their rulers. The difference — which we’ll see over time — is that God’s covenant is initiated out of love and grace, and His law is completely counter-cultural in really stunning ways.

Deuteronomy is an amazing book! It shows us God’s grace, His intimate care for His people, and His law, which is actually a beautiful representation of His character and the type of people He has called us to be.

* So, what stood out to you most in Pastor Dan’s sermon?

* What topic are you most curious about — remembering, law, renewal, or blessing?

* When you hear the word “covenant” as the main topic of Deuteronomy, what comes to your mind?

Leave a comment and get the discussion going. Can’t wait to explore this book together!

Pastor Denise

 

 

Engage is your chance to come hear more about CrossRoads’ beliefs, the heart of the leadership, and what it means to be part of our community as a member. We’d love for you to join us and be a part of God’s activity here! Make sure to register online — come have lunch with us and take the next step!

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The End of Death

Since the beginning of May this year, we have hosted nearly 20 funerals here at CrossRoads Church. Way too many.

Some of these funerals have been for those who lived long, fruitful lives dedicated to the Lord’s service. They went to be with Jesus, and people came to the church to remember and celebrate the things God had done in these lives over the decades.

But some of the funerals here have been for stillborn babies, infants, children, teens, and adults whose lives were cut short. Mourners come to the church weeping over the unexpected or too-soon losses of those who should have had more time.

In many ways, it has been a sobering summer here at CrossRoads.

Nearly a year ago, my sister-in-law passed away from leukemia. After seven months of chemotherapy, she succumbed to the cancer that had sunk its claws into her body and would not let go. I watched as hospice came into their house with oxygen tanks and medication for comfort during the last few hours. I listened to my sister-in-law’s ragged breaths, and I cried with my family as we saw her struggle and finally ease out of life.

As I watched my sister-in-law pass away, I realized how unnatural death is. It happens to everyone, but the reality is that it shouldn’t. It is not how things are supposed to be.

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Revelation 22 is the final words of the story God has been telling since Genesis — since the beginning. In Eden, Adam and Eve lived in the garden God had personally planted for them. God lived with them, walked with them, talked with them. It was beautiful and perfect and whole.

But then, the tree. The fruit. The disobedience. The relationship was broken, and the curse of sin was enacted. And ever since then, there has been struggle.

The earth is not quite as it should be. It floods and burns and wails with storms. It groans for restoration.

People sin against God and against each other. Our relationship with God is often faltering and fragmented — we separate ourselves from Him by our choices, by refusing to repent.

Things are not as they should be. People struggle with pain and suffering. Many are burdened with the consequences of their choices, or with the reality of a struggle that has come to them through no fault of their own.

We host funerals at CrossRoads and people come through our doors, grieving losses. They are in pain and burdened with sadness. Things are broken. This is not the way it was supposed to be.

But through it all, God’s story has continued. He has worked to restore our relationship with Him. He chose a family to begin the process. They were to represent Him and His ways. They failed.

He chose a king who would seek after Him and lead a great nation. He failed too.

But then came the One who would not fail. Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins and His resurrection from the dead was what could finally reconcile us. In order to begin to lift the curse, He became one for us. It was the victory that no one else could achieve.

The journey has begun — He is the road back to Eden. He is the road that leads to life and away from death.

We are not there yet. There are still mountains to climb, rivers to wade through, deep crevices in the road. People still struggle. We often choose sin instead of repentance. We still have funerals. It is not necessarily easier.

But the road home is there. The restoration has begun. The invitation has been sent.

And Revelation tells us that one day, all will be restored. “No longer will there be any curse.” God will again live among His people and the struggle will be gone. Death has been swallowed up in the victory of Jesus. Death does not get to win.

There is no way for me to rephrase what has been said so beautifully in God’s word:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Revelation 21:3-5

One day — one day – all will be restored. Believers in Jesus will go back to Eden. There will be no more tears, no more pain, no more funerals to host.

All will be as it should be.

Have you experienced the death of a loved one? What feelings did you experience? Do you find any hope in knowing that Jesus will defeat death once and for all? Join the conversation at the top of this post.

Welcome!

Hello and welcome to CrossRoads’ Core blog! We’re really excited to introduce you to this new blog and explain our new online version of The Crossing and other ministry blogs! We hope it’ll be a great resource to keep you updated and a way for us to share the heart behind the things God is doing here at CrossRoads.

Why the Change?

The print version of The Crossing has been in circulation for seven years, and, while it’s been a great resource, we felt like it was time to update and make the content and process a bit more interactive.

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By making The Crossing into an online version and adding some ministry blogs, we have the ability to communicate with you in a variety of ways, and to let you know what’s happening in a more timely manner. We’re happy for the opportunity to bring in some new features, like this blog, and we’re really looking forward to interacting as a church community in new ways!

What’s New?

The Crossing Online: If you subscribe to the online  version of The Crossing, it will come to your email once a month. It will have articles, upcoming events, a calendar and updates from our ministry blogs. If you haven’t yet, make sure to subscribe! You can also find this month’s Crossing on the CrossRoads website and in the texted bulletin.

If you know of people who don’t use Internet, please invite them to go to the Connecting Point at church to sign up to receive a hard copy of The Crossing and latest blog posts each month.

Blogs: We are also excited to introduce our new ministry blogs! We’ve started four new blogs that are dedicated to keeping you updated with events, articles, photos, and more. One thing that we love about blogs is that it allows for you to comment and interact with one another. We look forward to building community in this way.

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  • CrossRoads’ Core is where you’re at right now! This blog will contain the content from The Crossing as well as more articles and information related to CrossRoads as a whole. It will be a great place for information about what God is doing in our leadership and the heart of ministry here at CrossRoads.

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  • Connecting @ CrossRoads is your place to learn about upcoming events, small groups, mid-size community groups, and much more. Not only is this a great place to get connected, but it will also be where you can find useful tips if you are a group leader.

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  • The People You Live With is the blog for those who are engaged or married, or parents of infant-pre-k, K-6, and youth. Our family ministries will be regularly updating their blog with events, thoughtful articles, and photos.

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  • CrossRoads on Mission is our outreach blog dedicated to both local and global missions. For updates on our missionaries, our short-term missions trips, and the way we’re connecting with those in Red Deer and Central Alberta, stay updated with this blog!

We’re so happy you’re here to hang out with us! Check back often to see what is new, or choose to follow the blog at the bottom of the page to get an email when we update the blog with a new post.

What do you think of our new blogs? Leave us a comment and let us know!

 

Baptism Video

On August 17th, we were honored to baptism 29 people who wanted to publicly declare their faith in Jesus and their commitment to walk as His disciples! It was a great time at Fort Normandeau, and a blessing to remember and celebrate the amazing work Jesus has done in the lives of these followers!

Here’s a quick video of the day’s events — celebrate with us!

 

Over the next number of months, I’m excited for us to dig into the book of Deuteronomy together on Sundays. At first glance, Deuteronomy may not seem like the most fascinating book for us to explore, but taking a closer look, we will see the amazing things that God has for us in this section of His word!

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The book of Deuteronomy is about community being prepared for a new life. It is about God’s chosen people, the Israelites, who are about to enter into their new land. Forty years before, God had rescued the Israelites from slavery in the land of Egypt. They had spent the last few decades wandering in the desert, and now a new generation is poised to experience the long-awaited promises of God. There is a call for a new commitment to God and a fresh understanding of the nature of the community of God’s people.

Although Deuteronomy was addressed to a people from a culture and time very different from our own, it is still a book of considerable contemporary relevance. Then, as now, the surrounding world was experiencing a time of change, political tension, and military engagement. Still, in the midst of world events, a relatively small community was being urged by Moses, the “man of God,” to commit itself wholeheartedly to the Lord before engaging in the struggle for the Promised Land.

Deuteronomy is mainly a speech from Moses, as he reminds them of all the great and amazing things God has done for them. He asks them to remember God’s past actions as they look toward the future. He reminds them of their covenant with God—the law they promised to follow as a way to represent God to the world around them.

In this series we will discover God’s blessings that are as relevant today as they were back then. We will look at some very powerful themes like: the meaning of covenant, the renewed life God brings, the importance of faith at home, caring for the vulnerable, the way He provides, the restoration He offers, living a daily life that pleases Him, and so much more.

God asked His people to remember the things He had done and to stay humble. He reminded the Israelites, and us today, that our experiences shape us and help us recognize that we do “not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

So join us on Sundays as we journey through this portion of God’s word together.

See you there,

Pastor Dan