Saturday, February 06, 2010

Dear Soon-To-Be Mrs. Michael Cross

And anyone else who cares to read...

Thank you for taking a few minutes to fill everybody in on what's been going on with your recent comments.

I don't think that things will settled down after we're blissfully wed. I'm only hoping that I'll have a little bit of time each day - or during each week - to post something about our activities. Maybe together we'll be able to come up with some really good stuff to share.

Don't you downplay your acivities either. You've been busier than I have with all of the planning. You've just had more time than I do each day to do it in.

Yes, my poor broom is gone. Now I'll have to use the shovel...

I was going to post about Bob today, but now you've stolen my thunder. I haven't gotten all of the info yet, either. So we'll wait and see how things ended up later on.

I happen to love chinese! And it was only something quick and easy that I could work with. My other option would've been chicken alfredo - and I know you prefer red sauce over alfredo. So I went with chinese rather than italian.

OK, I'll post a couple of pics of us from the night I proposed. That way everyone will see my beard - and just how happy we are.

There. Is that better?
Now everyone gets to see me with a beard, and how truly beautiful you are.

The Youth Encounter event was a great day for me.
Compassion contacted me on kinda short notice about two weeks before this event. Compassion's HQ contacted me because my friend Randy couldn't cover the event himself, because of a previous engagement. So he recommended me. Needless to say I was grateful to be shown such confidence by someone that I truly respect and admire for his commitment to Compassion.
The event itself was agathering of local youth - mostly Middle and Jr High schoolers. So I wasn't expecting an overwhelming flood of new sponsors.
The high point fo the day, for me, was that I was allowed to give a 15 minute presentation to the crowd of about 300. I did good - from what I was told.
I used the following passages of scripture to emphasize what our callling as followers of Christ means.

Revelation 20:11-15
I focused on vs 13.
13) The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.

I reminded the kids that we're not really judge on what we do, but that our faith is dead without us doing something to show for it.

Matthew 7:21-23
21) "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22) Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23) Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!"

I explained that Jesus doesn't seem so concerned with the big stuff - the miracles, casting out demons or prophecying. So, what is it that Jesus wants us to be doing for Him? What deeds does Jesus think are worthy of allowing us into Heaven?

Matthew 25:31-46
I focused on vs 34-40.
34) "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35) For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36) I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
37) "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38) When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39) When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40) "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

I told the kids that Jesus is concerned with the way we deal with one another, and with strangers. I told them that they have more opporunity to succeed than most kids in the world, and that I was offering them the chance to help a child to find greater opportunity to succedd in their life. I pressed them to consider what Jesus was telling them with the last passage. And I questioned whether or not they were going to walk away when they've been shown 21 children who are hungry and thirsty and in need of care. I asked if they were going to turn away from these needy children when they've been blessed with so much.

I realized that there's not a whole lot that a bunch of Middle and Jr. High schoolers can do as individuals. So I guess my appeal was more to the youth leaders and pastors among the group - that they might be moved to consider sponsoring a child as a youth group.
It worked for 2 youth groups. One of which is going to see how the youth group handles the responsibility and then they may ask me to give a presentation at their church. I have to admit, I'm pretty excited about that possibility.
But as a side note, during the day I was able to talk to several of the people who were involved with the whole event. My contact person was a young lady named Amanda. She was really excited to have the connection between Youth Encounter and Compassion. It was something that her and several other people in her office had been wanting to do for years and this years's theme of "Do. Love. Walk." (based on Micah 6:8) was the perfect opportunity.
One of the things that most impressed Amanda was the way I told the story of how Paula and I came together. And she loved the way I explained how it was all God's doing, that He had been working in our lives since we were young, in order to make us into who He wanted us to be for one another.

BTW, you can all check out our story at our Wedding Page. Ther's a lot to it, so take your time and read each section. But don't delay for too long because we'll be taking the page down after the Big Day!

Something else that had Amanda rather excited was my openess to talk about my spiritual gifts. Without being told, I deduced that this event was a Lutheran gathering. Most of the youth groups represented Lutheran congregations, and the order of worship was quite familiar. So I wasn't too sure how well received my expressions of my spiritual walk would be. But Amanda explained how she was a part of a charismatic Lutheran congregation, and she was so glad to see someone talk about such things with such boldness.
She asked me what direction I thought the charismatic movement was heading in because she sometimes felt stiffled in her church. I explained that I think the charismatic movement is turning into something that it was always meant to be. I told her that I believed that those individuals who believe that "speaking in tongues" is the most important evidence of the Spirit's work in someon's life are falling to the wayside. God is ready to use anyone who is willing to let Him have His way in them. Whether it be speaking in tongues, or prophecying, or speaking a word of knowledge or wisdom isn't as important as long as they're obedient to follow the the Holy Spirit's leading. And I told her that I expect to see miracles happening as aresult of this new move, and she should as well.
I was truly uplifted to have the conversations that I had with her. And I believe that even with the two sponsorships, my real purpose for having been at this event was to give Amanda the encouragement that she needed. I am convinced that the sponsorships were a side-blessing for me, because I was obedient to being used to exhort Amanda in her spiritual walk. And I love that as much as I love helping kids sponsored.

And one last thing...
As some of the people I work with have begun to countdown the days to my wedding with me, a conversation began at work yesterday that was another blessing for me.
As I explained mine and Paula's non-traditional wedding, one of the young ladies posed a question regarding my being "really religious". I got to talk about mine and Paula's distaste for things "religious" and how we're all about faith and following Christ. I explained that "religion" creates a list of do's and don'ts that will supposedly get us into Heaven. But what I believe is that if you have faith, then just believing that God will do what He's said He will do - which is let us into Heaven by His grace - then that's all we have to do; just believe. To which one of the other young ladies standing nearby replied that's what she's been trying live by for years.
She also expressed her desire to find a church that is non-traditional and isn't all about the religion, or the building or whatever it is that turns so many people away from church. So I invited her to The Revolution Church, since we're about as non-traditional as churches get these days. We also talked about the idea that the church is becoming more centered on Christ and following the New Testament model of small groups and home Bible studies than Sunday morning services. And she loved that idea. I even invited her to a small group that Paula and I will be starting in our home after the wedding. I hope she'll show up for one or the other.

Sometimes, God is just too cool!

So, that's what I haven't been sharing lately. But with the snowstorm dropping well over a foot of snow outside, and the subsequent State Of Emergency having been declared for Allegheny County - not to mention Monroeville - I have some free time on my hands. Now I can take a nap...

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Anonymous Paula next week Cross said...

Wow, Michael, you are too cool! You hadn't told me which passages you reflected during your 15 minute exhortation at the convention. I am so glad you laid it out here because you were brilliant! I'm so touched that you shared the truth that it's how we love and serve one another that matters to Christ most, not our 'religious' works. And how you tied in where God said, 'depart from me, I never KNEW you'.... showing that He doesn't know us by our works, but by our hearts that respond to him. Because a person giving out of their own need... providing food or drink to another in greater need is an act of the heart of love. More so, an act of faith in knowing their needs will be met by the Lord as they let go of the little they have for the thirsty, hungry child. This is the heart of Jesus so therefore, if one possesses this heart, he and the Lord are connected; hence, God knows him.

Now that is not to say that performing miracles or casting out demons are dead works because these can be heart inspired as well - and the Lord knows these hearts. But such acts are sadly not ALWAYS reactions of the heart so much as they are a part of the program or procedures of religion and it's THIS position that is unknown to the Lord. The key in knowing the difference is determining where the heart is in it. What the motive is. Do they do it because they love?

At any rate, you pointed out such hidden truths in only 15 minutes and I trust that the Lord will use it in their lives. I'm so blessed to know you planted these truth seeds into their hearts and pray it helps steer them in right directions along with all the other teachings God provides them!

I wish I could have been there! I can't believe how you teach exactly the passions of my own heart! Will you marry me??? (Oh... that's right...we covered that! It shows in those pictures of you with that chubby girl sitting next to you! Ugh!)

12:43 PM  
Anonymous Almost Mrs. Cross said...

Michael, you said:

"But what I believe is that if you have faith, then just believing that God will do what He's said He will do - which is let us into Heaven by His grace - then that's all we have to do; just believe."

I want to share that I agree with you 100% on this truth but would like to ADD that for those of us who truly do believe, which is all we have to DO, we consequently get to know and love God and aspire to obey Him. We end up 'doing good' BECAUSE we believe. Jesus said in John 14 that those who love Him obey Him.

So, again... our 'responsibility'... What we are held accountable to is whether or not we believe. Changing our ways and turning from sin is simply evidence THAT we believe.

And what exactly does it mean to believe? Drop Michael an email... We'll be glad to share.

1:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope that isnt a PURPLE shirt in those pics and it was just the lighting that makes it look that way........

4:32 PM  

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