“Hey, It’s Me!”

Have you ever had someone call you on the phone and the person on the other end of the line just starts talking or says something like, “hey it’s me,” and yet you have no idea who it is?  It’s like the person thought they were familiar enough that you would recognize them and know their voice, but you don’t.  That typically leads to a bit of an awkward encounter.  Do you say, “excuse me, but I don’t know who you are,” or do you just let them keep talking and hope that at some point you will get a clue as to who this person is?

The reason a scenario like that is so awkward is because recognizing someone’s voice implies an intimate relationship.  We wouldn’t recognize the voice of someone we had just met or someone we only occasionally talk with.   But in this scenario apparently the person on the other end of the line thinks that we have that kind of intimate relationship with them and yet we have no idea who they are.

The key is that in order to be familiar enough to know who the person is on the other end of the phone we need to have spent enough time listening to that voice already.  We need to know their voice.  And that takes time.

The same is true with Jesus.  We need to spend time getting to know His voice.  This Sunday we are going to take a look at a passage from Scripture that paints for us a picture of Jesus that many will recognize.  But we will also be challenged to consider whether or not we would recognize His voice? We will be looking at John 10 and considering Jesus as the Good Shepherd.  Consider joining us this Sunday, at 2510 Chaska Blvd. at 9:30 a.m.

Awkward Moments

So the Super Bowl is coming up in just a few days and maybe you, like me, will be going to a Super Bowl party.  Well, I thought I might share a few tips to help us avoid those awkward moments that could come up during the big event.

Tip #1: If you are going for a high five after a great play, make sure that the other person is also planning on the same maneuver.  There is nothing worse than standing up in the midst of a great moment with your hand raised in the “high five” position only to find nothing but air waiting for you up there.

Tip#2:  If you have not been paying close attention to the game and all of a sudden you notice a great play, if nobody else is cheering, make sure it is not an instant replay before you cheer wildly.

Tip #3: It is okay to enjoy the commercials at the big game, but talking loudly during the game and telling everyone to be quiet during the commercials is not acceptable.  The same holds true for the halftime show.

Tip #4: There are always people at Super Bowl parties who are not as interested in the game as you might be.  It is okay to pretend to be listening to them when they talk, but watch out for those awkward moments when you find out that they have been waiting for a response and you have no idea what they were talking about.

Tip #5:   Double-dipping is okay, only when it takes place on your own plate.

So I hope those were some good tips that will help us all avoid any awkward moments at the big game.  It is never fun to be caught in the midst of an awkward moment.  But this Sunday, at The River, we will be catching someone in the midst of a few awkward moments.

In John 5, we find a healing that Jesus does in Jerusalem, but while it is miraculous, it is also a little bit strange.  The man who is healed has several awkward moments in this passage that are hard to understand.  But these awkward moments also can serve as reminders to us about what to do when God is at work in our lives.  Join us at The River this Sunday to find out more.

And, if you are looking for a Super Bowl party to attend, consider joining ours.  We will be at the home of one of our River Church families’.  Give us a call (952-654-7620) if you want to attend.

Never Be Thirsty Again

Did you know that water is our bodies’ principal chemical component and that every system in our body depends on water?  I was reading an article on the Mayo Clinic website (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/water/NU00283) that talked about how much our bodies need water.  It was a very interesting article that brought up something that surprised me.

According to the Institute of Medicine the average adult male, living in a temperate climate, needs 13 cups of fluids a day.  The total is 9 cups for women.  I had always heard 8 cups, but this article shows that information to be based more on the ease of remembering that number (8 cups of 8 ounces each) than on factual information about what is best for the body.  Although, if we are at least drinking 8 cups, then we will be in the ballpark.

The article also says that if we are drinking enough water, then we should rarely be thirsty.  We should be hydrating ahead of time, before we need it.  That makes sense, but we tend to rely on our thirst to let us know when we need to drink something.

I doubt that I drink enough water.  I know that I get thirsty periodically throughout the day.  Especially when I am being more physically active, or when it is hot outside.  But imagine if we only had to drink one time per day and that would be enough water for that day?  Imagine if we took one drink and then we were never thirsty for the rest of our lives?  That would be incredible wouldn’t it?

Well, in the Bible, Jesus was talking with a woman while sitting by a well, and He told her that He had living water and whoever drank that water would never be thirsty again.  Of course she was intrigued.  She was also confused.  But after spending time with Jesus, her life was changed forever.

You see, Jesus was talking spiritually not physically.  He was referring to that thirst within us that can only be quenched by a right relationship with God.  And that thirst can be quenched, once for all, through Jesus Christ.  You can read the story in John 4 and you can find out more about it at The River this Sunday, at 9:30 a.m.

Megaphone Guy

Have you ever gone to an event in a major city and passed by that guy who stands on the street corner yelling into a megaphone? Sometimes it is a spiritual message like the end of the world, or the need for repentance.  Sometimes it is someone trying to sell you something or maybe even someone who is just a little bit delusional.  But typically our response is to move to the other side of the street to avoid, “megaphone guy.”

But what motivates “megaphone guy” to do what he does?  Have you ever thought about that?  Why is he out there in the cold or heat, enduring the disdain of many onlookers, proclaiming a message that most people seem to be ignoring?  Good question isn’t it?  We don’t know what motivates them to do what they do.  But it must be pretty important to them, or they wouldn’t go through all that trouble.

There was a man from Scripture that I think we sometimes compare with “megaphone guy.”  His name was John the Baptist.  He was definitely out there on the fringe of society.  He hung out in the wilderness, wore clothes made out of camel’s hair, ate locusts and wild honey and preached a message of repentance and that the kingdom of Heaven was near.

But one big difference between John the Baptist and “megaphone guy” was that people didn’t go across to the other side of the street to pass by, they gathered round.  John’s ministry was very popular.  Many people flocked to hear his message and to be baptized.  Some even thought that he was the Messiah.  There were some who didn’t like his message, and eventually he was imprisoned and beheaded because of what he said, but he was very popular with the people.

However, when Jesus showed up, many people stopped following John and began following Jesus.  This made some of John’s followers a little upset.  They didn’t want Jesus taking over their turf.  But John had a very amazing response.  He said, “He must become greater, I must become less.”  John wasn’t jealous of Jesus, and he didn’t look at their ministries as if it was a competition.  He wanted Jesus to succeed.  He even saw his ministry as being all about pointing people to Jesus.

What a great attitude.  And it is that attitude that we are going to look at this Sunday as we take a look at John the Baptist as part of our “Lessons from the Life of Christ” series.  See you Sunday.

Rainbow Man

Have you ever heard of Rollen Stewart?  It is not a very familiar name, although I think many of you have probably seen him before.  He is also known as Rainbow man.  Back in the 80’s Rollen donned a rainbow wig and started showing up at major sporting events.  He first showed up in 1977 at the NBA Finals, where he stood out because of his crazy wig and his even crazier dancing.  Then in 1980 after becoming a professing Christian he made up a sign that said John 3:16 and he began bringing that with him to sporting events.

Throughout the 80’s he traveled all over the place with that wig and that sign, including the Olympics, the World Cup, the NFL playoffs, The Indy 500, The Masters, and even the royal wedding between Prince Charles and Lady Dianna.  He also brought along a little battery operated television to figure out where the best place was to get picked up by the video cameras.  So he was frequently seen on TV.  Sports producers became tired of his antics and tried to keep him off the air, even going so far as to threaten to fire cameramen who allowed Rollen to show up in their frame.

He became famous enough to be parodied on Saturday Night Live.  Unfortunately, his personal life began to fall apart and he wound up in prison serving three life sentences.  But many still remember his John 3:16 sign and his crazy rainbow wig.  And maybe they were intrigued enough to pick up a Bible and find out what that reference was all about.

John 3:16 is the most famous verse in the Bible.  People who have never stepped foot in a church are even familiar with this verse, or at least the reference.  And this verse will be the focus of our sermon this Sunday.  I will be looking not only at John 3:16, but also at the passage surrounding it, helping us to delve a little deeper into what is being talked about.  Join us at 9:30 this Sunday at 2510 Chaska Blvd., to find out more.

‘Cause We Need a Little Christmas…

I was thinking about taking down my Christmas lights today.  Here in Minnesota we have been hit with a very unseasonably warm winter. We are actually supposed to have a high of 48 on Saturday.  Imagine that!  Typically by now we have snow on the ground and the air is so cold that the last thing I want to do is to get outside on a ladder and take down the Christmas lights.

But here is my dilemma: typically once the snow falls it is here til Spring finally arrives.  That means that it is March or April before I can take down the lights.  So practically speaking, it makes sense for me to take the lights down now, while I still can, before the snow arrives.  However, it just doesn’t seem right to take down the Christmas lights on December 29th.  We usually stop turning the lights on once we get to New Year’s, but this just seems a little bit too early.

Yesterday, my son Jacob said that he wished that Christmas lasted for a whole week.  I agree with him.  It seems like Christmas doesn’t last quite long enough.  The anticipation and build up to Christmas takes so long, and then in one day, it’s over.  We were at the mall yesterday and the stores were already moving on to Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and Easter.  I don’t know about you, but I want Christmas to last.

So this Sunday we are going to spend one more day on Christmas.  Actually, we are going to look at a piece that is typically included in the traditional nativity story, but is often misunderstood.  We will be looking at the visit of the Magi.  Were there really 3 of them?  Were they kings, wise men, or magicians?  Where did they come from and when did they arrive?  Those are just a few of the questions we will be asking as we take a look at their amazing story.  And then we will be asking the question, “so what can I learn and apply to my life from what I find in their story?”  Come on out to The River this Sunday to find out more.

Is It Christmas Yet?

Can you believe that Christmas is almost here?  It seems like the days leading up to Christmas just fly by.  That is not true for my little, three-year-old daughter.  Makenna is having trouble waiting for Christmas.  She has been asking, “is it Christmas yet?” for the the last month.  And when we tell her how many days are left until Christmas comes, her response is always, “Christmas is taking a long time.”

Of course, she has had nothing to do to get ready for Christmas.  She didn’t have the shopping, baking, planning and preparing responsibilities that her mom and I have had to deal with.  And she hasn’t been at school each day, like her brothers and sisters, counting down the days til Christmas arrives. She doesn’t even really understand the passing of time.  For her, Christmas is just someday in the future and she can’t quite grasp how far away it really is.

And she is so ready for it to come, right now!  She is excited for Christmas.  And that is something I can definitely understand.  Christmas has always been one of my favorite times of the year.  I have always enjoyed the different aspects of Christmas.  I enjoy giving and receiving gifts.  I enjoy the extra time to spend with family and friends.  I enjoy the decorations, and Christmas music, and the Christmas specials on TV.  And I enjoy the time of focusing on the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

When I was growing up, I loved Christmas too, but back then it was mostly about the gifts.  I couldn’t wait for Christmas morning to come so that I could get up and see what I got.  But over the years, my perspective on Christmas has changed and some of the other things have become more important.  Now don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy getting a gift as much as the next guy, but my enjoyment of the Christmas season is much more complete than when I was young.  And that is definitely a good thing.

I was talking with my children during devotions last night about, “what if we didn’t get any presents on Christmas.  Would we still celebrate?”  And we talked about how, even though we enjoy the games, toys, clothes, and other presents that we get on Christmas, ultimately none of those gifts even come close to the greatest gift that we have been given.  And that is the gift of Jesus Christ who came to earth to save us from our sins and bring us the hope of eternal life.  So, even if we received no other gifts at Christmas time, we would still have so much to celebrate.

This year Christmas is on Sunday.  That doesn’t happen too often.  And when it does, we can look at it like it puts a crimp in our plans to celebrate with our families.  Or we can embrace the opportunity to focus on what Christmas is all about and take advantage of the opportunity to celebrate the greatest gift that we have ever received.  This Sunday at The River, we will be focusing on that great gift.  Consider joining us this Sunday, at 9:30 a.m., at 2510 Chaska Blvd., to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Nativity Wow Factor

It’s fun to see Christmas through the eyes of our children.  During this time of year as we drive around at night, my children constantly are yelling out, “Christmas lights!  Christmas lights!”  They point out the different beautiful displays that they see along the trip.  But while I still enjoy seeing the lights and other decorations that people have put up, the “wow factor” has kind of worn out for me.  So it’s nice to have the kids around, to help remind me of what it all looks like through their eyes.

You see, it’s easy for us to forget the “wow factor” of the Christmas season, because we have experienced it all so many times before.  And I think we have the same problem with the story of the Nativity from Scripture.  We have already read, or listened to it hundreds of times over the years.  We know it so well that we don’t really even pay attention anymore.  It has lost a little bit of it’s “wow factor” for us, because we already know the story so well.  But in reality it is no less incredible, just because we have heard it before.  And knowing how it all works out from the perspective of the rest of Scripture should cause us to be all the more impressed with what is happening.

Do you ever find yourself underwhelmed at the idea of Christmas?  Do you find yourself unamazed by the story of the Nativity?  If so, then I want to encourage you to come to The River this Sunday.  I will be looking at the Nativity once again, and trying to help us consider just how amazing it really was.  But then we are going to move beyond the “wow factor” and talk about what we can apply to our lives from what we hear.

I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Chaska Valley Family Theater production of White Christmas.  It was a very enjoyable evening.  For anyone interested, they have 5 more shows coming up this weekend.  You can find more information at www.cvft.org.

The show follows the tale of a couple of army buddies who, after returning home from the war, find themselves helping out their old commanding officer who is struggling to make ends meet at an inn up in Vermont.  They pull in some help from their Broadway pals and put on a Christmas show that packs in a crowd.  The story has some great, memorable musical numbers, including the famous “White Christmas” song from the title.

Julie and I wound up getting to the event a little early and spent some time talking with one of the patrons of the theater.  He talked about how this show will help many people get into the Christmas mood, because he speculated that a lot of people were not focusing on Christmas yet.

I am not sure if that was a correct assessment or not, but even those who may be in the Christmas spirit, might not be focusing on the right things. It is actually pretty easy to get into the traditional Christmas mindset.  It is easy for us to find ourselves dreaming of a white Christmas or thinking about a jolly, overweight man in a red suit climbing down our chimney to bring us gifts.  It’s easy because everywhere we turn at this time of year we find ourselves bombarded with Christmas carols, television specials, and deocrations galore that constantly turn our eyes toward the holiday season.

But if we want to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, that doesn’t happen naturally.   If we are not careful, our entire Christmas season can get eaten up focusing only on the materialistic celebration of the holiday instead of on the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.

So, how do we get ourselves dreaming about the celebration of the birth of Christ instead of just a winter wonderland?  That’s a good question.  I believe the key is being intentional about putting Christ in the forefront during this time of year.  There is nothing wrong with Christmas shopping, decorating the house, baking Christmas cookies, listening to carols, and watching Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.   But if that is all that we do, then Christ will fade into the background.

One of the things that we do as a family is to spend some time each evening reading an advent focused devotional storybook.  The one we are reading this year is entitled “Jotham’s Journey.”  We have done it before, but whenever we read it again, the children enjoy it.  The story follows the journey of a young boy named Jotham who has been separated from his family and as he gets closer and closer to finding them, he also gets closer and closer to finding the Messiah.  It is a great story that helps us focus our minds and hearts on the birth of Christ.

Another way to help ourselves focus on the true meaning of Christmas is by making Church a priority.  Over the next several weeks we will be focusing on the Christmas message on Sunday mornings.  And this Sunday evening, at 5:30, we will be having a special Christmas party at the church with a focus on the message of Christmas.  If you are free, come on out and join us for a Christmas focus along with food and fellowship.  Let’s make it a priority to focus on the true meaning of Christmas this holiday season!

Zombies, Vampires, Ghosts and Mummies

When I was growing up the term “Zombie” didn’t refer to a flesh-eating corpse, it referred to someone who was kind of zoned out.  Like someone who was really tired, or lazy, or just kind of out of it.  For instance our basketball coach might have said, “Quit acting like a bunch of zombies and get out there and score some points.”

But that is not what people are talking about when they mention zombies now.  Zombies are kind of a big deal in our society today.  Personally, I don’t really understand the appeal, but between video games, movies, books and television shows, zombies are all over the place.  Fictionally speaking of course.

I guess our society has always had a bit of a fascination with things like zombies, vampires, ghosts and mummies.  Back when I was growing up, the Ghostbusters movies were a big hit.  And before I was born, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, and Boris Karloff made careers out of playing creepy surreal characters like Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolfman, and the Phantom of the Opera.

But we don’t need to turn to the movies or television to find a story about a corpse coming back to life.  Actually, the Bible contains for us some of the most incredible, unexplainable, larger-than-life stories we could ever imagine.

For instance, this Sunday at The River we will be taking a look at the story of Jesus raising a man from the dead.  When I picture this story, I actually picture the kind of scene we might see in one of those mummy movies, where the mummy comes walking out of the tomb all stiff and restricted because of the burial cloths.  But this story is not just something we might see on a movie screen, it’s real.  You can read about it in the Bible (John 11).  And come on out to The River this Sunday to find out more about this amazing story.