Temporary Move To Online

After much deliberation, and listening to our governmental and denominational leaders, the elders have made the decision for The River Church to transition to a video format for our worship services.  It is difficult to consider not meeting in person.  A big part of being the Church revolves around fellowship and we should not easily give that up. However, in the midst of our current situation it seems wise for us to change the way we meet for a little while.  The current plan is for us to transition to an online format for the next 4 weeks.  We will continue to reevaluate along the way as we listen to the recommendations of the CDC and other regulatory organizations.  

We are going to start with a simple format and then consider adding to that in the days ahead if we have the resources and need.  We will be recording a video and posting it to YouTube so that even those without Facebook can access it.  Each weekend we will then make that video link available through Facebook, email, and The River website.  We encourage you to watch the video and make comments either on YouTube or on the Facebook page.

During this time we will try to worship, pray, fellowship, and study God’s Word together using social media and other tools. 

I encourage everyone to use the River Church Facebook group and email to share prayer requests, answers to prayer, practical needs, Bible verses, and any other helpful insights.  We all need to work together in creative ways to connect with each other and encourage one another in these uncertain times. 

From a practical perspective we also still have financial needs for the operation of The River.  We have our online giving option available through Venmo.  You can find the instructions for using Venmo below.  If you would prefer a more traditional means of giving you can send a check to The River Church, P.O. Box 92, Chaska, MN 55318.

Thank you all for your patience and grace in the midst of this time.  Everyone stay safe and let’s figure out together how to best to be the church in the midst of all that is going on.  I will close with Aaron’s blessing from the book of Numbers: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Venmo Instructions:

Follow the easy steps below to set-up the ability and start utilizing a free service where 100% of your giving goes to our ministry.

Download the Venmo app through App Store or Google Play using your smartphone. Or follow this link https://venmo.com/?gclsrc=aw.ds&

Open the application and follow the instructions to register as a user on Venmo.  This will involve creating a username (email address) & password and then linking a bank account or debit card from which giving will be made.

Once you are registered and logged in, you will see a “Pay” icon which will open up a search feature to type in the name of the person/place you want to pay.  The name for the church is River Church Chaska.

Enter the amount you want to give, add any comments or notes and decide on whether you want this to be Public (visible to everyone), Friends (visible to sender, recipient and their linked friends) or Private (visible only to sender and recipient).


Thanksgiving has come and gone and we are officially in the “Christmas season”. It seems that as every year passes the Christmas season becomes longer and longer. As someone who loves Christmas this has some obvious pros. Decorations go up sooner, there seem to be more pre-Christmas celebrations, and the stores start playing some of my favorite Christmas songs (yes I am one of those people who loves department store Christmas music). Unfortunately one of the things that gets forgotten in the every expanding Christmas celebration is Advent. The goal of Advent is not to expand the Christmas celebration but rather to prepare us for it. One of the dangers of surrounding Christmas with a fog of advertisements and “Holiday cheer” is that our focus becomes exhausted and confused. Christmas Day almost feels less significant and impactful because we have been doing Christmas for over a month. Advent’s aim is to sharpen our focus, prepare our minds and souls, and direct our passions towards longing for Christ’s return as we celebrate His incarnation. Traditionally Advent has been a time of fasting and prayer. There are many ways that we can fully participate in the Advent season that will magnify the Christmas celebration, but here a few suggestions on how you could incorporate fasting and prayer this Advent season.


            Deliberately abstaining from food or other things that we would normally indulge in is a historically significant and spiritually powerful way to focus ourselves on God’s work in our life. Fasting encourages the formation of discipline and serves as a powerful reminder to turn our focus towards God throughout the day. This Advent season consider picking one thing from which to abstain for a set time and use the time saved and the focus sharpened for prayer or Scripture reading. The thing you give up does not necessarily have to be food. It could be social media, hot showers, a favorite beverage… the list goes on and on. Whatever you chose to give up, it should be something that is pleasurable enough to be missed but not so burdensome that it is not realistic. A tip I have found helpful is to be very specific about the fast. Pick a specific day of the week or a specific time of day to make the most of the fast. Maybe you decide to abstain from hot showers on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Use the discomfort as a reminder to say a morning prayer. Or if you skip lunch on Tuesdays make a plan to read a portion of Scripture during the time you would normally spend preparing and consuming your meal. A Bible study plan I have found helpful during Advent is to read through the Gospels but skip the portions that describe His birth. This can help to direct our attention towards Christ’s ministry, death, and resurrection so that when Christmas arrives we have our minds focused on the reason that His birth is so significant.  


            Advent is a great time to direct our prayers towards thanking God for the incarnation and asking Him to prepare us for His return. One of the things I have found helpful is to choose a recited prayer to do in addition to my spontaneous prayers. This shakes up my normal prayer routine and reminds me daily that this is a special season to foster gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice and encourage anticipation for His return. This is also a great time to ask God to strengthen our relationships with friends and family. Christmas often times provides plenty of opportunities to spend time with friends and family. We may have some family members or friends that we don’t see eye to eye on in every situation. Recently I saw a large amount of articles, which offered instructions of how to get the upper hand in social and political debates during family gatherings. I love a lively discussion and debate but sometimes these disagreements can begin to drive a wedge in our relationships. We can get so focused on the ways we disagree that we begin to treat those we love as opponents in an ideological face off rather then as people we love despite our disagreements. I am not suggesting that we eliminate these discussions or completely ignore our differences. I am suggesting that we pray for our family and friends and specifically for those who we disagree with. It is amazing how praying daily for people can be used by God to grow our love and understanding for them. It can help remind us that even those who we vehemently disagree with are created in the image of God and therefore warrant our love and understanding.

Hopefully you will find some of these suggestions helpful this Advent season. I pray that God will work in all our lives to increase our gratitude for His life, death, and resurrection, and to fill us with anticipation for His return.  

Author: Nathan Phillips, Associate Pastor at the River Alliance Church

Because Of An Apple?

In Genesis God looked at the world He had created and called it “good”. However, when we look around our world and observe the prevalence of suffering and sin many of us our forced to ask, “How did a ‘good’ world get so bad?” If we continue reading in Genesis we don’t need to go very far before things start going downhill.

We are given an account of how suffering and sin entered humanity in Genesis chapter three and despite what you may have heard an apple is never even mentioned. It all starts in Genesis 3:1,

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

God had given the first two humans, Adam and Eve, a very simple command in Genesis 2:16-17, “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’”

When the serpent approaches Eve he begins by intentionally misquoting God. Throughout history we find examples of atrocities beginning with misinformation and distortion of the truth. When truth is made obscure it is much easier to justify evil.

Eve responds to the serpent’s distortion of God’s command in an interesting way. In verses 2-3 she says,

“The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

Although Eve was much closer to the truth in her quotation she adds a restriction that God did not put in place. She adds, “and you must not touch it.” We don’t know exactly why she added this part, maybe it was an attempt to guard against the temptation of eating the fruit or maybe it was simple confusion. Either way her addition to God’s command suggests that in some way she found His command to be insufficient. Whether her addition was intentional or it was a result of the confusion the serpent caused we can already see Eve’s confidence in God’s command begin to break down.

The serpent then responds by exploiting Eve’s wavering confidence in God’s command and pushes to shake her confidence in God’s motivation in giving the command. 

“’You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’” Genesis 3:4-5

The serpent had said nothing but lies since this conversation began and now he calls God a liar. Not only is the serpent claiming that God is a liar but also that God is intentionally keeping Adam and Eve from something that would better their existence. Since we are so far removed from the account we can easily recognize some logical flaws in the serpents claims.

The serpent seems to acknowledge that God is the Creator of everything. He is also claiming that God is evil enough that He would intentionally create humans with the ability to better their existence yet command them not too. The flaw in these claims is that if God is an evil God who oppresses humans with His commands and yet powerful enough to create everything then why would He create an opportunity for them to better themselves in the first place? Why not skip that part and ensure an eternal existence of oppression?

Eve, having already had her confidence shaken and being confused by the serpent’s claims, understandably does not recognize the serpent’s flawed argument and is tempted by the notion of improving her existence. In the following verses we see the result.

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” Genesis 3:6

Before Eve even ate the fruit (not identified as an apple) she does something that would forever impact humanity and all of creation. She acts upon her own definition of good and evil. The passage tells us that she looked and identified the fruit as good, she considered it desirable for gaining wisdom, and then she took and ate it. Although she knew God’s standard of what was good and evil she acted upon her own perception of good and evil rebelling against the God who created her. Shortly after Eve ate her husband Adam did the same. What Adam and Eve did was much more sinister than grabbing a snack. They claimed for themselves the authority to define right and wrong. It all started with God’s truth being obscured, God’s command being seen as insufficient, God’s motivation and nature being questioned, and ultimately humanity trying to claim God’s authority to define right and wrong.

As a result of this one sin all of humanity has been plagued by sin and suffering. Every generation following Adam and Eve has followed this same pattern of obscuring truth, distorting commandments, demonizing God, and claiming authority that does not belong to them. By recognizing the true nature of the original sin I hope that by the saving grace of Jesus Christ we will cling closely to God and break the cycle put in place by Adam and Eve. God’s truth is perfect, His commandments are sufficient, His character is good, and all authority belongs to Him.      

Author: Nathan Phillips, Associate Pastor at The River Alliance Church

When Leaders Fall

Recently there have been several young influential leaders on the modern Christian landscape who have either partially or completely rejected the faith. It is always disheartening to see people become overwhelmed by doubt and pain and respond by turning away from Christ. More concerning then even these examples of rejection are the responses of some people. I have seen people who are crushed because they feel they have lost their “hero” or they see their rejection as a proof that Christianity must not be true. I only point to these recent examples because they have gained so much attention but there are countless examples of leaders who have fallen into sin, heresy, or lost their faith for one reason or another. When this happens it causes us to ask a question, “does the falling away of religious leaders weaken the truth of Christianity?”

A clear answer to this question, “does the falling away of religious leaders weaken the truth of Christianity?” can be found all the way back in the 3rd century in The Prescription Against Heretics written by Tertullian. Although Tertullian had his own theological weaknesses his words ring true concerning our present situation. He wrote, “It is usual, indeed, with persons of a weaker character, to be so built up (in confidence) by certain individuals who are caught by heresy, as to topple over into ruins themselves. How come it to pass, (they ask), that this woman or this man, who are most faithful, the most prudent, and the most approved in the church, have gone to the other side?” Tertullian points out that the reason we are so shaken when religious leaders fall away is because we elevate them in our hearts and our minds and make them examples of what it means to live a “good Christian life”. We see their charisma and their influence. We notice that the church approves of them and declares them champions of the faith. Maybe we even remember ways that they have impacted us personally and helped to define our relationship with God. When they fall away we are baffled and our confidence is weakened. Even in the 3rd century Tertullian recognized this as a common and damaging reaction. He then continues, “If then a bishop or deacon, a widow, a virgin or a teacher, or even a martyr, has lapsed from the Rule of Faith, must we conclude that heresy possesses the truth? Do we test the faith by persons or persons by the faith?” Tertullian answers this question with a question, “Do we test the faith by persons or persons by the faith?” The truth of the Christian faith stands on whether it is true or not. It does not stand on who accepts or denies it. The world was round even before we knew it and germs ravaged our bodies even before we could comprehend their existence. Just imagine the state our world would be in if we judged truth by who accepted it and not by its own veracity. It is heart breaking when people turn away from the faith but their turning does not weaken the truth of Christianity. There are many great men and women in history who have wrestled with the same questions we wrestle with today and have come out on the other side more assured of their faith. We look at modern Christian leaders and aspire to be like them. We follow their teachings and are encouraged by their faith, but our faith does not rest on the popularity of any individual it rests on the truth of the Gospel.

So how can we avoid the becoming distrait the next time a Christian leader falls away? Firstly we need to be rooted in the word of God and have an active prayer life. Sometimes we rely too heavily on Christian leaders in an attempt to make up for deficiencies in our own spiritual life. It can be easier to listen to a sermon or follow a social media feed then it is to study the Bible ourselves or spend time in prayer. Although sermons can be enlightening and social media feeds can be encouraging they are a poor substitution for meditating on God’s life giving word and approaching His throne in prayer.

Secondly, we need to choose different people to look up too. Ultimately our faith rests on no one except Jesus Christ, however the ability to look at mere humans and be encouraged by their devotion to our Savior is an amazing gift. Although the gifts and talents of young leaders should not be ignored and should serve as an encouragement to the Church, these gifts and talents are not the essentials of a life well lived. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Paul’s ministry was so great because he lived and died on mission for the kingdom of God. People do not enter the Hall of Fame during their rookie season no matter how spectacular their first appearance was. We should look up to people who have went through the pains of life, wrestled with the tough questions, and at the end of their life can say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Instead of being swept off our feet by the new charismatic leader lets be rooted to the truth by the example of men and women like Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Francis of Assisi, Catherine of Siena, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Mother Teresa, A. W. Tozer, Florence Nightingale, John Wesley, Charlotte Moon, and many others.

So the next time you are discouraged because someone of importance has rejected the faith remember that our faith is built on the firm foundation of truth and we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who have fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith.  

Author: Associate Pastor Nathan Phillips

Evangelism Study

Week 1

“God’s love and the separation caused by sin”

In week one we will be turning our attention towards God’s loving creation of humanity, humanities rebellion due to sin, and the separation sin caused. In order for us to worship and love God as our Savior we need to be deeply aware of our need for salvation. One of the biggest barriers to sharing our faith in modern America is a society that rejects the idea of objective morality and personal sin. Before anyone will fall in love with Jesus Christ the Savior, they must first come face to face with the sin they need saving from.  


Verses: Genesis 2-4, Romans 5

The Pursuit of God  by A.W. Tozer chapter 1. Following hard After God  


(If you copy paste this URL into the search bar on Google it will bring you to a free PDF of the book. I tested it out and it works for me but if for some reason this does not work for you simply search “Pursuit of God free pdf” and there are many options available.)


(These are questions that I personally have heard many times while sharing my faith. The goal of these questions is to think through some difficult questions so that when we have the opportunity to share our faith we are prepared to better explain our relationship with God.)

  1. Why would God create humanity if He knew we would sin and be separated from Him?
  • Most people are good why would we need to be saved?
  • You say you’re a Christian but you still sin. Why do you still sin if you have been saved from your sins?

Prayer Focus:

(The prayer focus is a simple phrase that can be prayed throughout the week to invite God to work in a specific way within us through this study)

“God reveal my personal need for Your saving grace and fill me with awe at the depth of Your love.”

Week 2

“Christ’s Ministry”

In week two we will be turning our attention towards Christ’s ministry. We so often hear about Jesus’ ministry in church that it can lose its impact. In order to live a missional life we need to be routinely overwhelmed by the reality that God entered into humanity and walked among us. The most outrageous claim of Christianity is that the Creature of the universe humbled Himself to the extent that He lived among His creation. Not only is this claim outrageous it is also what makes Christianity the most compelling. The majority of other worldviews believe in a deity that is somehow separate from the suffering and turmoil of human life, but Jesus Christ stepped into our suffering, was tempted and ultimately died to restore the relationship that was broken by our own sin. If we do not take the time to let the reality of this claim overwhelm us we will never be able to properly communicate that reality to someone else.  


Verses: Matthew 5-7, John 4

The Pursuit of God  by A.W. Tozer chapter 2. The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing  


(If you copy paste this URL into the search bar on Google it will bring you to a free PDF of the book. I tested it out and it works for me but if for some reason this does not work for you simply search “Pursuit of God free pdf” and there are many options available.)


(These are questions that I personally have heard many times while sharing my faith. The goal of these questions is to think through some difficult questions so that when we have the opportunity to share our faith we are prepared to better explain our relationship with God.)

  1. Jesus was basically a wise teacher who said we should love each other. What difference does it make if I believe He is God or not?
  • What makes Jesus’ life different then Buddha or Muhammad?
  • Do you really believe Jesus healed people and cast out demons? How do you know these are not just stories or people misunderstood what actually happened? 

Prayer Focus:

(The prayer focus is a simple phrase that can be prayed throughout the week to invite God to work in a specific way within us through this study)

“God thank you for entering into the world and walking among Your creation. Empower me to remember Your teaching and imitate Your life.”

Week 3

“Christ’s Final Hours”

In week three we will be turning our attention towards Christ’s final hours. The focal point of the Christian faith is Christ on the cross. Many other worldviews are based off preferences or philosophies. Although there is a lot of philosophy within Christianity it is not based on philosophy. It is based on the historical reality of God coming to earth and sacrificing Himself for our sins. Without His sacrifice we would have no possibility of a relationship with Him. We would have no hope for the eternal end of suffering and sin. Jesus’ final hours are gruesome but because of His sacrificial act of love we can experience the pure love of God and share it with others. 


Verses: Luke 22:39-23:56, Isaiah 53

The Pursuit of God  by A.W. Tozer chapter 7. The Gaze of the Soul


(If you copy paste this URL into the search bar on Google it will bring you to a free PDF of the book. I tested it out and it works for me but if for some reason this does not work for you simply search “Pursuit of God free pdf” and there are many options available.)


(These are questions that I personally have heard many times while sharing my faith. The goal of these questions is to think through some difficult questions so that when we have the opportunity to share our faith we are prepared to better explain our relationship with God.)

  1. Why didn’t God just forgive everyone’s sins instead of requiring Jesus to die on the cross?
  • If Jesus was supposed to be this great ruler how come He allowed Himself to be killed?
  • If even the people who studied the Scriptures during Jesus’ time didn’t believe Him why should I?

Prayer Focus:

(The prayer focus is a simple phrase that can be prayed throughout the week to invite God to work in a specific way within us through this study)

“God thank You for Your sacrifice on the cross. Fill me with gratitude for Your sacrifice. When I doubt my own value, or I feel broken and beaten down remind me that You gave everything to free me and love me. Increase my love for you and help my love for you overflow to those around me.”

Week 4

“Christ’s Resurrection and Return”

In week four we will be turning our attention towards Christ’s resurrection and look forward to His return. When humanity and all creation became infected with sin it brought with it death. When Jesus gave up His life on the cross and then rose from the dead on the third day He shattered the power of sin and death. In His resurrection we have the assurance that sin, death, and suffering will all pass away. When Christ returns the full power of His victory over sin and death will be realized in the world and we will rejoice with Him. In the mean time we have the responsibility and privilege to proclaim the Gospel to those around us as we eagerly await His return. 


Verses: Matthew 24, Revelation 19-20

The Pursuit of God  by A.W. Tozer chapter 10. The Sacrament of Living


(If you copy paste this URL into the search bar on Google it will bring you to a free PDF of the book. I tested it out and it works for me but if for some reason this does not work for you simply search “Pursuit of God free pdf” and there are many options available.)


(These are questions that I personally have heard many times while sharing my faith. The goal of these questions is to think through some difficult questions so that when we have the opportunity to share our faith we are prepared to better explain our relationship with God.)

  1. Does it really matter if Jesus physically rose from the dead? Couldn’t it just be a powerful metaphor or couldn’t it be a spiritual resurrection?
  • If sin and death have been defeated why are they both a reality in our world?
  • How could a good and loving God condemn so many people when He returns?

Prayer Focus:

(The prayer focus is a simple phrase that can be prayed throughout the week to invite God to work in a specific way within us through this study)

“God thank You for defeating sin and death. Thank You for giving me hope that all suffering, sin, and death will pass away. Thank You for allowing me to participate in the spread of the Gospel. Please help me effectively share the Gospel with those I come into contact with and to play a role in reaching lost people. Fill me with eager anticipation for Your return.”

Social Media Pt. 4

Week 4: Every tool has a cost – rough draft

“We shape our tools, and then our tools shape us.” – Marshal McLuhan

Imagine you are stranded on a deserted island. You want to build yourself a house (no makeshift hut will do you for- you intend to do survival in style) and need to fell a few trees to do so. You cannot punch a tree down, despite what your impressive ego and the classic videogame Minecraft would you have you believe. Not to worry, you have a plan. You decide to make yourself an axe to cut the tree down.

Can you use the axe without the axe changing you?

On first glance, the answer would be yes. How can an axe change you? But, as you begin to hack down trees for your survival mansion, you begin to notice some things. Your shoulders, which were at first hunched and skinny from your desk job, have first become sore, and then gradually, broader and stronger. Your hands have developed callouses, and your work has taken on a much more dangerous tone as you now swing a sharpened heavy object. You need to take care that the tool you created to help you survive in more comfort, doesn’t worsen your prospects by lopping off a few of your toes.

You have first built your tool, and then your tool changed you.

We live in a culture that is facing technological change on an unprecedented scale. Not only is speed at which new technology is developed and adopted faster than ever before, but most experts agree that the rate is increasing. For instance, for about 5,000 years a horse was the fastest way to travel across land. You could be an ancient Sumerian, get into a time machine, travel two thousand years in the future, and still know how to use the main method fo ground transportation. Compare that with the last 120-ish years of human history. We went from no cars on roads to space ships putting up satellites.

So we can all stream netfilx on our phones. We don’t need a time machine to feel disoriented, we just need to go to sleep at night. When we wake up, there will be some new app, video game, or social media platform taking the culture by storm. AI, self-driving cars, genetic editing- the next thirty years promise a cornucopia of new technology, and those are just the ones that we know about. The real game changers are the ones we don’t see coming. For instance, who at the turn of the millenia saw forsaw the rise of smartphones?

That pace of change makes series’ like the one that you have been reading here for the past few weeks, difficult to write. Just about the time we get a handle on how a tool is shaping us, some of it’s positives and negatives, and some methods for using it responsibly, we get bombarded by more tools and have to start the process over again. If only there was a way for those in the church to assess new forms of media (the next version of social media, if you will) and set proper boundaries before we have been completely reshaped by its negative consequences.

Marshall McLuhan, one of the most influential thinkers in media, attempted to give us the tools to do just that. McLuhan, a Christian, was one of the only academics to predict the rise of the internet. He recognized the incredible pace at which technological media was changing our world, and came up with a theory to explain how a new form of technology affects us, called McLuhan’s Four Laws of Media.

According to McLuhan, every new form of technological media

1. Enhances one of our abilities (for instance – social media enhances our ability to stay in touch with friends over distance)

2. Obsoletes another form of media (for instance – social media largely obsoleted writing personal emails, sharing picture albums, and sending Christmas letters)

3. Retrieves a set of skills or abilities that were previously lost or minimized in our past (for instance – social media retrieved some of the daily contact with our friends and relatives that was present in earlier societies)

4. Reverses its intended original characteristics when taken to the limits of its potential (for instance – social media, which is intended to make us feel connect, often corresponds to intense feelings of isolation and rejection when overused)

That’s a fine theory, but how does this help us when the next Fortnight or Facebook comes along?

When deciding how much if any time we should spend on the nextbigthing(tm), we can ask ourselves how it fits into each of the four laws. What ability does it enhance (I.e. what good does it do)? What form of media does it obsolete? What trait from the past does it retrieve? And finally (and arguably most importantly) what damage can it do if and when its use is taken too far?

These sorts of questions can help us walk into new technology and media with more power. The reflection that we put in before using a new technology can make us less apt to be abused by it, and can help us set up proper boundaries for ourselves when using it to protect ourselves from some of its negative effects, which is what this entire series has been about.

There is no doubt that social media and technology is dramatically reshaping our world as we talked about in week 1. Money and the attention economy that we talked about in week 2 are huge drivers behind this change. Week 3 contained tips on how to set up proper boundaries to protect yourself from

being used by social media. Finally, this week, we looked at Marshal McLuhan and how his ideas can help us use future technologies more wisely.

Thank you for taking this journey with us!

Samuel Schmitt

Beyond Fear

When I first entered the old barn, I was startled as I turned a corner and saw the spider a few inches away. People are generally not fond of spiders. “Heartwarming” doesn’t describe our first reaction. I’m no exception, yet there is mystery, beauty and benefit within the life of every creature. Spider silk (the web) is comprised of proteins which are the product of living cells. The strength of the web when compared to that of steel on a weight-basis is about 6 times stronger. Amazing! Scientists and engineers don’t know how spider silk is made; but they are intent on discovering the answer. This discipline of study is known as “biomimicry”; man’s attempt to do what nature does naturally.

Every creature has a creator and there is great wisdom in seeking to know more of our Creator’s heart and secrets. To know God is to pursue and trust Him.

Jeremiah 9:23-24 (NIV)

This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches,but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.

So quickly we recoil and run from circumstances which at first sight seem unpleasant or uncomfortable. Certainly we could profit by first pausing to ask our Creator to reveal His purpose and intentions in allowing the experience. Our humanity demands that we avoid all pain and suffering; when in fact it is often our distress that humbles our willfulness, breaks our pride and trains us to seek and depend upon God.

Psalms 138:8 (AMPC)

The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy and loving-kindness, O Lord, endure forever—forsake not the works of Your own hands.

Time out

Precious Father, when I only see the spider in my situation prompt me to stop and consider your will and purposes. Send your Light to reveal hope and understanding. Holy Spirit enable me to see and believe beyond immediate discouragements. Dear Lord, increase my trust in the fact that your grace is sufficient for me. Help me to remember that in your presence is fullness of joy. Amen

Today in-Christ

Today I’ll intentionally take time to stop, inquire, listen and wait for the Holy Spirit to speak to my deepest needs.  I will be confident in Christ’s grace while God’s light and His Word allow me to look further than my fear, selfishness and first impressions.

Philippians 1:6 (NIV)

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Beyond Fear

Fearful doubts

Point to our shame

We passively suffer

Smothered in blame

Confident only

Of failing again.

Despondent creature

Listen and know

I stand with you now

And wherever you go

I’ll lift and love you

Beyond your dark hour

The victory is won

Trust deep in my power.

Author: Fred Carlson

Summer 2019 Road Construction

(Photo taken from www.chaskamn.com)
The red lines show the roads that will be impacted by this summer’s road construction. 
The blue arrows show an alternate route that may be taken and the blue circle suggests a parking location in case roadside parking on 4th street is overwhelmed.

Social Media Pt. 3

Set-up Proper Boundaries

“Liberty must be limited in order to be possessed.” – Edmund Burke

When you sit down to eat with a ruler, Consider carefully what is before you;And put a knife to your throat if you are a man given to appetite. Proverbs 23:1-2

Last week, we talked about some different techniques that media companies use to trick you into spending more time on their platforms than you realize you are spending. This week, we are going to discuss how you can counter these traps with some strategies of your own. You don’t have to use all of these techniques (I’m not your boss). Everyone is different, and some techniques will work better for you than others. Try the following and see what works best for you.

1. Clock-in, clock-out.

A big part of the trouble with social media is that it is an infinity pool of engaging content. We keep scrolling, watching, and swiping to find the one more thing that will satisfy us, and before we know it, hours have gone by.

One of the best things you can do to counter the infinity pool is to log your time on different apps. For some people, the simple fact of a timer running while you’re watching youtube videos will be enough for them to be conscious of how much time they are spending. If you need a little extra help in scaling back your time spent on instagram each day, you can download one of a number of apps and programs that lock you out of certain apps or games after you spend your allotted time on them each day (you get to set these limits in the program). You’ll find yourself asking “is this video worth my spending 8 of my 15 minutes that I allow myself on youtube each day?” More often than not, the answer will be no.

2. Make things inconvenient for yourself.

One of reasons why we instinctively check our social feeds during any break in our day is because we can. It’s easy, two clicks and we are in before we have even made the conscious decision to be swimming in our infinity pool of data. The designers of social media apps know this, and that’s why they push hard for you to download their apps or have your computer auto-log you into their site.

The easiest thing you can do to make your social media use more deliberate is to make logging in just a little harder. Log out of your youtube account after using it so you consciously have to enter

your username and password before you start watching streaming videos next time. Don’t download the facebook app, make yourself log into the website manually instead.

You can also limit the locations you access certain forms of social media. For instance, I only go on facebook on my desktop. This stops me from scrolling endlessly on my phone at restaurants or at work. It seems like a weird trick, but it works well for me.

Another variation of this is where you put your technology when it’s not in use. Some people are very disciplined at not carrying their phone around the house with them when they are home at night. If you leave your phone in the kitchen, you won’t be able to fall into the endless scrolling trap as easily.

3. Don’t browse right before bed or right after getting up in the morning.

Ever sit on your phone on the couch as you’re browsing instagram and thing “I’m too tired to go to bed”? It takes willpower to switch tasks, even if that task is going to bed, because it’s far easier to just keep scrolling, swiping, and watching videos. To avoid falling into the infinity pool trap when you are tired and lacking willpower, try setting yourself a buffer time of at least 30 minutes of no phone or internet before you go to bed and after you wake up in the morning.

To make this easier, I actually don’t bring my phone into my bedroom. I use an alarm clock to wake up (yes, they still make them), and read a book before I fall asleep at night. Again, deliberate inconvenience is your friend when reclaiming your time – if the phone stays in your kitchen when you’re home at night, you won’t be tempted to browse instagram one last time before you turn in for the night.

4. Don’t post angry.

If you feel your anger start to rise at something you read on social media, it’s time to step away from the technology for a while. Do not, under any circumstances, start posting. James 19-20 tells us

“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

That’s exactly the opposite of what tech companies want you to do. They want you to get upset and engage with the content.


Right, because outrage drives engagement and engagement means they are getting attention, which is a valuable commodity (reference pt. 2 of this series). Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that outrage is a virtue.

If there’s some good that can be done by posting, commenting, or sharing about what is making you angry, then great go ahead and post… after you’ve had some time to cool down. Nothing needs to be done immediately – the internet isn’t going anywhere. If it should be done, it can be done in a few hours after you’ve had time to calm down.

5. Take breaks

One of the best things you can do to start taking back control of your internet time is to take breaks. Try a 24 hour technology fast. If that’s too easy, try for 48 hours. Every time you instinctively reach for your phone durnig the fast, make a mental note. You will be shocked to find how much of a part of your life picking up your phone to check social media has become.

Some people make this a weekly exercise. That’s probably a little tough for most of us, but if we can’t do a 24 tech break at least once a month, we are probably too handcuffed to our phones.

The key to unlocking those handcuffs is yours. Try some of these techniques and see if they make a difference for you.

As I’ve said before, my wish is not that you stop using your phone. My wish is that you realize how much of your life you are spending on social media and related apps. If you want to spend time on them, that’s fine, but you need to be consciously making that choice. God has given you a finite amount of time on this planet to steward. Do it well. Spend your time and attention in a way that is honoring to him.

Author: Samuel Schmitt

Social Media Pt. 2

“Know the Game”

The First Principle of Social Media Use: Know the game

Matthew 10:16

Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

“Advertising is the world’s oldest profession.” – Christian writer, thinker, and theologian Peter Kreeft

Most tech companies sell your eye-balls. Not your actual eye-balls (this isn’t Minority Report), but your attention.

Google, facebook, snapchat, instagram, youtube, CNN, weather.com, all of these places want you to use their services. They want you to watch videos, leave comments, read stories, and look at pictures. But ever notice how you never pay these places?

That’s odd, isn’t it? How does a business that doesn’t charge for their products make money?

The truth is that the businesses do charge for their products. However, their products are not their platforms. Facebook news feeds, instastories, snap stories, youtube videos- these are not the products of tech companies, they are the platforms.

You, my dear reader, are the product. Or, more specifically, your attention is the product.

Social media, like most forms of modern media, are funded by advertising. This advertising is more lucrative than most traditional forms of advertising, because it’s highly targeted. Every like, comment, piece of profile information, and bit of browsing history is tagged, stored, and catalogued by tech companies to build a behavioral profile of you. How accurate is this profile you ask?

Accurate enough that if you switched devices, created new profiles, and started your online footprint over from scratch, the major tech companies like google, facebook, and other major advertising online databanks would know who you were within three to five days. Your behavior profile and personal information is incredibly valuable to these companies, because it allows them to sell ads to other companies that are tailored specifically to people like you.

The companies that want to advertise to you will pay the large tech firms and online data companies good money to get ads in front of you. Each time you see an ad, the website that the ad appears on gets paid to show you that ad. That’s how “free” websites like Instagram work- they sell other companies the right to show ads that are designed to appeal to people like you.

Okay, you may be thinking by this point, I already knew this.

Most people already know that large tech companies are collecting their data to sell them ads. What they fail to realize is the concept that you, the user, are these companies product. The ramifications of this are important, because if companies can sell your attention, then the more attention that they get, the more they can sell. Experts call this the attention economy.

Think of it this way: the goal of most businesses is to grow revenue (to make more money next year than the year before). For a while, web companies did this by getting more people online. But we’ve pretty much maxed out internet users. Those who are going to get into the game, are in the game. So you want to continue to grow revenue, what options do you have?

· Increase price

· Increase users (from other sites)

· Increase time users spend on your sites

The third is by far the easiest. Companies like snapchat, google, and facebook pay large amounts of money to behavior scientists, psychologists, AI programmers, and old fashion advertising experts to find ways to get you to spend more time and attention on their platforms. They do this in a number of ways, the most common are infinity pools, behavior algorithms, inciting outrage, and playing on desire.

Ever notice how you never get to the bottom of the page on facebook, instagram, or snapchat? There’s always more feed to scroll through, links to click on, or (if you’re playing a video game) side quests to run down. These are called infinity pools, and they play on our natural human tendency to be curious and explore. Companies use infinity pools to grab your time and attention without you realizing how much you have spent, because in your mind, you’re still discovering more data, not spending time trying to get to the bottom of an infinity pool.

Ever get some fantastic youtube recommendations and spend hours watching videos about experts theorizing how a Star Destroyer would fair against the UNSC Pillar of Autumn in a fictional spaceship fight? Just me? Okay. Well if you have had that experience (or a similar one), you have fallen victim to a behavior algorithm. A computer program has just used all your personal info that we discussed earlier to predict what kind of content would most likely grab your attention and allow you to be shown more ads. Youtube is a brutally effective example of this, and the reason why it is the most popular social media platform at the moment.

Outrage and desire are two other ways that companies can manipulate you to spending more time on their platforms. We are naturally interested in things that make us emotional, either positively or negatively. Media companies have known this for centuries (if it bleeds, it leads after all), and, in a modern sense, this is why you see certain stories (whether true or not) go viral.

Next week, we’ll talk about how you can counter some of these strategies to make yourself less manipulatable.

Again, the goal of this series is not to have you never spend any time on the internet. The goal is to make sure the time you spend is firmly under your control, and not spend because you are being manipulated. Your time is given by God to you to steward. You will be accountable for it one day. Use it well- don’t let it get stolen from you. Be wise as serpents. Know the game.

Author: Samuel Schmitt