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Americans love to celebrate our freedom, especially on July 4th.
The question becomes in what ways are we using our freedom to celebrate? Are we gathering together to serve, care, and build up others? Or are we gathering together to serve our inner desires that get us into trouble?

Paul reminds us about what it cost Jesus to give us the gift of freedom in his letter to the church in Galatia.
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery....
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Gal 5:1,13-14

What are the freedoms that we need to invest in to love and honor God and others?

What freedoms do we need to stop doing because we do them in order to please God and indirectly use it as a bargaining tool?

What freedoms do we need to stop that are feeding our flesh and old nature desires?

Let's evaluate our free time and see how we are using that time to honor and love Jesus and other people:
Are we loving our neighbor as we love ourselves? Who is it that is bugging you, getting on your nerves and easy to dislike?
I think the best word in the entire world and throughout history is the word... GRACE!

It is such a smooth easy word to say but it is a world-changing concept that when truly understood just a little bit, begins to blow our minds. When we give GRACE to those that don't deserve it -- but need it -- then we experience a new kind of freedom. We are no longer held captive to negative thoughts towards another person. We let go by giving them grace and letting God take over our hearts.

It is truly a blessing to live in the United States of America. And we can directly bless others when we choose to love and live like Jesus did.

Using our freedom to honor and love Jesus and others together,
Pastor Chris
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When I was a teenager, one of my best friends and I would go bowfishing in a canoe on the St Croix River. The beauty of God's creation in the quietness of the morning with no one else on the water is a memory I can still see, hear and smell in my mind. In the back areas of tributaries of the river, we would discover different levels of large bodies of water due to the beavers creating damns. We would have to portage our canoe and gear up a foot to the new lever of water. We found one body of water that was over 3 feet higher with 5 or 6 beaver huts in it. Simply amazing.

We would listen for the carp slurping the reeds for breakfast and stealthily make our way in their direction. In total silence, when we were close enough, we would let our arrows go... The carp did not have a chance. I remember starting with a normal bow. Then we moved to a compound bow. The compound bow was always ready to fire with massive tension in the string. But, the regular bow would lose tension after many shots. It would not shoot the arrows as fast, hard nor accurate.

I was gripped the other day by Job's description of how God blessed his life.
"My roots will reach to the water, and the dew will lie all night on my branches. My glory will not fade; the bow will be ever new in my hand." Job 29:19-20

As Job sought the living God through out his life, he experienced God refreshing his soul like roots of a tree with plenty of water, like branches with fresh dew every morning and like a freshly strung bow at ultimate tension. Let these images soak in your mind. Let these images bring you into the presence of God. Let these images be tools to let Jesus refresh you.

What is your soul like these days?
Are you sensing Jesus refreshing your soul like this?
Do you put yourself in a position to let your soul drink in God's refreshing living water daily?
Are you still enough in the presence of the Holy Spirit to soak in the refreshing dew daily?
Are you spending personal time with Jesus so that He can restring the bow of your soul so you are ready to go any where and do anything Jesus leads you to do?

Taking the time each day to be refreshed and restrung by Jesus,
Pastor Chris
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As Jude and I hiked just one of the countless parts of the Appalachian Trail yesterday, we walked out of the green luscious woods to a breathtaking sight...

As we sat on the edge of a cliff overlooking the vast valley of the Blue Ridge mountains to eat our packed lunch, a brown hawk soared looking for his lunch about 20 feet below us. With a little wing motion, he swooshed about eye level with us. Wonderful. Marvelous. Fabulous. 

We could hear God’s still small voice speaking very loudly. Something similar to what Job heard...

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. Does not the ear test words as the tongue tastes food? Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding? “To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his.” Job‬ ‭12:7-13

This summer, what are your spiritual plans and goals to connect deeply and lingeringly with Jesus?
Will you focus on a book, a chapter, a paragraph or just one verse from the Bible all summer long?
Do you have a study plan, memorization plan, a contemplative plan to let a God speak to you?
Does it include walks, jogs, long sits in His splendid creation?
Does it include some family or friends
Let’s take advantage of this summer to grow more intimately with the Trinity and The Word.
Pastor Chris
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What causes someone to move to another country, put not only their lives on the line but also the lives of their children on the line to serve people of another ethnicity, another religion in order to show them and tell them the love of Jesus?

Would you ever risk your career, your livelihood, your marriage, your children in order to tell someone that Jesus loves them?

It was a privilege to spend a week with a team of people who are doing just that. These men, women, married couples, singles and families have invested years training; in undergraduate school, graduate school, theology, profession, language, culture and so much more.

Every day, they wake up with totally different sights, smells, tastes, touches, culture, religious background to meet privately with Jesus. To engage this different group of people. To befriend them, to identify their needs, to meet those needs freely, to serve them, to listen to them, to become a student of them and to follow the Holy Spirit's direction to start a conversation about Jesus. Knowing that the conversation about Jesus puts them at risk and in danger.

Its one thing to do this as an individual. Its another thing to invite your spouse to be fully involved. Its a whole other thing to bring your children to grow up in this.

Each person on this team is so inspiring.

It reminds me that 2,000 years ago, one man invited 12 to join him to go to the world, serve the world, love the world, die for the world, then be miraculously resurrected for the world. Then his followers, 11 with one defector, along with about another 120, changed the world to be a better place. To bring love, joy, peace and hope to people who were unloved, uncared for, marginalized, unwanted, discarded, hurt, wounded and in need.

I am reminded that it only takes one person, one family, one small team of people to make a dent in history.

Have you responded to the Holy Spirit's calling to join Jesus and a team of Jesus followers who are intentionally befriending, serving and talking about Jesus with those who are far from God?

"If serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. (the gods in our current culture). But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  Joshua 24:15
Seeking to risk more for Jesus,
Pastor Chris
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I asked Ahmad, an Arab, "How did you meet Jesus?"
A huge grin came across his face and he began...
"لقد نشأت في أسرة مسلمة
laqad nasha'at fi 'usrat musalama"

"I grew up in a Muslim family."

As Ahmad passionately spoke in Arabic, the translator got lost so in his story that he forgot to translate into English. I had no idea what was said, but his energy, excitement and love that he was conveying was more thrilling to watch than any movie. I started throwing pretend popcorn in my mouth as I watched. The person next to me asked, "What are you doing?"
I said, "This is better than any movie, I just need popcorn."

Ahmad had a wonderful job and was growing in his knowledge of Islam. One day, a friend of his began asking him what he knew about Jesus. He did not know much but they kept talking about Jesus without letting anyone else know about these conversations. One day, Ahmad went hunting, normal for him to do. He walked a half days journey to one of his favorite spots. When he arrived an overwhelming exhaustion settled on him. He began to think that he was not strong enough to walk back or possibly he might die. So, he laid down to rest and fell asleep. In his dreams, a man glowing with glory walked up to him, knelt down, picked up his head and poured water into his mouth with a cup. As soon as the water touched his lips, he was empowered to full health. This glowing man called him by name and then introduced Himself as Jesus. Ahmad woke up fully revived physically and walked home. He had more conversations with his friend about Jesus. During these conversations with his friend, Ahmad discovered that his friend is a Christian who had been praying for him for quite some time.

A few months later, Ahmad had another dream. He was flying and there was this huge entity that was glowing with glory. He flew right into it. The glowing glorious entity told Ahmad to continue learning about Jesus. Then he woke up. He had more conversations with his Christian friend who gave him the Book of Luke in Arabic. Ahmad could not put the Gospel of Luke down. He read it and re-read it. At the end of reading it thoroughly, Ahmad declared, "I believe this entire story."
A few months later, he had another dream. He was walking down a road with a warrior companion. The road up ahead had a huge hole in it with fire coming out. In that fire was a monster. Ahmad and his warrior companion cautiously walked up. Ahmad said, "Let's attack the monster." The companion said, "No, see those three warriors off in the distance? We need them to help us." Then Ahmad woke up. He shared this dream with his Christian friend. The Christian friend asked him who was the warrior companion with him. Ahmad said, "I think his name was Luke."
"Who were the other warriors off in the distance?"
"I think their names where Mark, John and Matthew."
The Christian friend gave Ahmad the other three biographies of Jesus, Matthew, Mark and John in Arabic. Ahmad began reading and re-reading...

Ever since, Ahmad has been seeking Jesus, knowing Jesus to be his Lord and Savior.

Do we know that Jesus is still revealing Himself to everyone who is not a follower of Jesus? 
Are we joining Jesus on His mission to befriend people far from Jesus, listen to them, become a student of them and seek to have conversations with them about Jesus?

The Warrior Luke records Jesus starting a spiritual conversation with His disciples on the topic of who is Jesus
"One time when Jesus was off praying by himself, his disciples nearby, he asked them, “What are the crowds saying about me, about who I am?”  Luke 9:18

Praying for Jesus to continue to rescue Muslims as well as Minnesotans as we seek to start conversations about Jesus,
Pastor Chris
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Imagine sitting on a thin, nicely covered mattress on a cement floor in a cement blocked single-car garage sized room. A tarp-covered roof shades the room from the 95 degree temperature, and a small water cooler (portible AC) unit tries to pour in coolish air. After traveling 22 hours with a short night sleep, this was a wonderful way to start my first day on this Global Work trip.

This was my first visit to a Refugee Camp in the Middle East. The Global Worker, another volunteer and I were graciously invited into the homes of different families of 8 to 14 members, who have nothing to do all day except school for the children, is hard to describe unless if you see, hear, smell and touch it. We visited 3-4 families each morning and then another 3-4 families after lunch.

After introductions, the Global Worker focused on seeking to help them medically and physically. The Global Worker asked questions, made evaluations and then interpreted this information to me so I could type it into an ipad. I enjoyed taking people's blood pressures. After a thorough investigation on their physical condition, the Global Worker focused on the families' emotional and relational health. The walls were slowly coming down after they had been cared for medically and physically. The Global Worker sensitively asked those questions, "where are you from and why are you here in this camp?"

They responded with stories that no one would ever forget. In the past 2-5 years, ISIS had driven these Muslims from their homes either by warning that they are coming, or bombings or by bullets rittling the side of their nice homes. So, they fled. Some are missing their husbands and fathers either by death or not knowing where they are. Some with fathers and older sons with missing limbs and bullet wounds. Others mostly physically intact but emotionally scarred. Obviously, their homes are nothing worth going back to. And if there was something liveable, they would not move back because ISIS would probably show up again and remove them.
As I watched this care without knowing the language, I could physically see the unloved being loved, the rejected being accepted, the unwanted being wanted and the once strangers now becoming friends. What a gift these Global Workers are; being the hands, the feet, the eyes, the ears and the love of Jesus.

As I sat there, praying, what could I do? It was at this time, I thought, since we have gotten to know them, it might be natural for them to get to know us. I pulled out my phone and showed them photos of my family. The Global Worker did the same. The Muslim family smiled and asked questions about our families, connecting us even more.

But, then the Global Worker offered another gift, spiritual care. It was at this point the Global Worker and I would be praying for a way to shift the conversation to the spiritual. I marveled at how God would give the Global Worker or even myself an idea on how to naturally shift the conversation toward Jesus. One time it was through family relationships. Another time it was through the topic of stress. Another, questions about Jesus like, "Have you ever read a story about Jesus?" Our Global Worker pulled out his smartphone and had them read a story about Jesus in their mother language, Arabic. Sometimes they would watch a video narrative of a story of Jesus in Arabic. For most, this was the first thing they have heard about Jesus other than from the Muslim perspective and teachings. There is always something so attractive about just reading one story about Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. The goal, plant some seeds about Jesus. Help them to possibly desire to know more about Jesus. Then pray. Pray that Jesus would come to them in their dreams.

Ahhh... hearing the stories of Jesus showing up in their dreams was one of the best things about this Global trip. 

Stay tuned until next week.

Amazed, humbled and deeply grateful,
Pastor Chris
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Jesus loved to use common things of culture to communicate. Sheep and shepherds were part of every aspect of life back then but not so much today. If we look into sheep and shepherds we would understand that sheep are defenseless animals and they need a shepherd in order to survive. Jesus offers to be our shepherd in so many ways...

"Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." Matt 9:35-36

-If we bring our wounds and pains to Jesus, He will give us compassion.
We can clearly see in this passage that Jesus sees all of our pain, sickness, selfishness, and more. He is deeply moved with love towards us. Let's move towards Him and share our hurts and let's receive His personal loving attention.

-If we get off course or lost, Jesus knows where we are and will bring us back.
When Adam and Eve were hiding in the garden, God asked, "Where are you?" Did He really not know where they were? Of course, He was helping them see where they were and what condition they were in. This is part of Jesus' way of rescuing us; helping us see how far off course we have gotten. Remember Jesus parable about the shepherd leaving 99 sheep to find the one lost...

-If we fall or fail, Jesus is right there to heal and help us get back up.
Jesus wanted to confront religious "do's" and "don'ts" by saying He is available 24/7. "If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep!" Matt 12:11

-If we ask Jesus to rescue us, Jesus will adopt us into His eternal family.
As much as we try, we can not save ourselves, that is God's job. Jesus explained, "I give (My sheep) eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of My hand." John 10:28 

Are you experiencing Jesus as your shepherd?
In what ways do you need to talk with Jesus about your life?

So grateful for Jesus' compassion and strength,
Pastor Chris
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There was a historical man named Jesus.

He was born like no else was born. He lived like no one else lived. He taught like no one else taught. He served like no one else served. He loved like no one else loved. His heart went out to those who were overlooked, left out, marginalized, despised, forgotten and excluded.

On Friday, His great courage got Him arrested. His great love led Him to the cross. His great passion for sinners carried Him through the suffering. His great sacrifice allowed Him to die. On Friday, it was such a horrible ending to such a wonderful life that it was marked by darkness, earthquake, the dead walking and the veil ripping.

On Saturday, there was great silence as Jesus lay dead in the grave. There was great mourning as the Great Leader seemed to no longer be leading. There was great sorrow as the Great Lover seemed to no longer be loving. There was great shock as the Messiah seemed to be a fraud.

On Sunday, the stone was rolled away. On Sunday, the grave clothes were neatly folded. On Sunday, the tomb was empty. On Sunday, the bloody, ripped up back, the wounds from the crown of thorns, the wounds from the beatings, the wounds from the nails, the wounds from the spear were fully healed. The dead was no longer dead, death lost its sting, the grave lost its corpse. On Sunday, darkness was derailed, the devil was dethroned and hell was defeated. On Sunday, faith was vindicated, the prophets validated, the disciples animated. On Sunday, sin lost, shamed died, hope soared and love won. We got something to live for. We got something to die for. We got something to hope in.
Easter is therefore, the greatest victory, over the darkest enemy, by the noblest hero, for the loftiest cause, that is the central proclamation in the history of the world. If there is anything in this broken, dark world worth celebrating it is that Jesus Christ is Risen from the dead. He is risen, He is risen indeed!

How is your life different because of this Easter? Or did you miss it? What is Jesus saying to you?

Humbled, changed and inspired,
Pastor Chris  
3.31.16 Blog originally posted by Chris Reinertson
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What is the best thing about Christianity?

Could it be overwhelming grief suddenly turned to hope...

"When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body." Mark 16:1

How difficult was it for these women to get up, go shopping, and do their duty for the most important dead person in their lives... Who will roll the stone away they discussed... 

Grief is a part of life and extremely difficult to walk through...

Grief due to a promising business that fails.

Grief due to a life enhancing relationship ends.
Grief due to a life mission being destroyed.
Grief due to a loved one whom dies.

Grief due to failure of any and every kind is enough to keep anyone and everyone in the bed of depression and discouragement.

Back to these devoted followers of Jesus.
As they arrived, the stone was already rolled, the tomb was empty, an angel began to speak to them.
“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen! Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered His words. Luke 24:6-8

The gift of light in darkness.
The gift of life in death.
The gift of hope in hopelessness.
The gift of the resurrected Jesus.

How can we live as if every day is Easter?

Let that one word in Luke 24 grip you and enhance your every day life... 

"Remember"

Remember Jesus is alive. He is with you. He is in  you. He is for you.
Are you with Jesus? Are you in Jesus? Are you for Jesus?

Some daily ideas...

1. Plan an extended date with Jesus every day.

2. Be in constant communication with Jesus all through out your day; as you do your tasks and relationships.

3. Memorize joyful and helpful passages of Scripture. Remember, Scripture is Jesus.

4. Use meal times to invest in building others up; both Christians and those far from Jesus.

5. Be generous.

6. Be thankful.

"Devote yourself to prayer, being watchful and thankful." Col 4:2
Living as Easter is every day - because it is!
Pastor Chris
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How was your Easter experience? Did you take time to re-read the biographies of Jesus about the last week of His life as human (100% God and 100% Human)?
Did you get a chance to talk with family about Phil 2:5-11?
Did you get a chance to talk with some brothers and sisters in Christ to encourage them?
Did you get a chance to talk with a few people who are far from Jesus about Easter?

I am struck by the day Jesus rose from the dead and rumors started flying around like crazy. The physician Luke wrote about an incident...

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.
     He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
     They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas,asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
     “What things?” he asked.
     “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.” Luke 24:13-24

When is a good time to talk about Jesus?
All the time. Any time. Meal times.

We are starting a new message series entitled Eating With Jesus. Our purpose is build better relationships with Christians and with those far from Jesus.

How did Jesus surprisingly popped up into your conversation with someone today?
He loves to do that just like He did on that road to Emmaus.

Seeking to have life enhancing conversations with Jesus over meals together,
Pastor Chris
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