River City Days Wrap Up

I want to say a big “thank you” to everyone who helped us make River City Days a great weekend for The River.  We had a booth on Friday and Saturday and lots of people from The River came by to help out.  Over the course of Friday evening and Saturday we gave away over 1,000 balloon animals and we had 12 winners in our gift card giveaway.  Thank you also to everyone who came by our booth to get a balloon, or to sign up for our drawing or to just talk and get information about the church.  We made a lot of new friends and had a great time being in the community.

For those of you who are wondering about the drawing, here is a list of the winners: Jayd Laurentz, Nichelle Schwarts, Kerry Larson, Gary Sauber, Kim Lane, Tricia Brkovich, Barb Horel, Mary Lou Bullerman, Nancy Skoglund, Karen Scullin, Travis Ristow, and Sandy Lewis.  If you see your name here, please feel free to contact us about getting your prize, or we will be sending it in the mail. 

We gave away Dunn Bros. and Rex Cinema gift cards as prizes this year.  The reason is very simple.  We gave away Rex Cinema cards because that is where we meet on Sunday mornings for our worship services.  And we gave away Dunn Bros. because that is where Pastor Rob hangs out most of the time since he has no office. 

Then on Sunday, we moved our entire worship time out to City Square Park to join in a praise and worship time featuring 7 different churches.  We were asked to provide sound for the entire event and then to also stick around and provide sound for a talent competition later in the day.  Again it was a big committment, but we said yes.  The main reason we were involved is because this fits in so well with who we are as a church.  We believe very strongly that we need to come together as one Church in the community, and we also believe that as a church we are called to be in the community, so this event fit perfectly with those two core values.  The event ended up being a great time of worship and it was wonderful to experience the different worship styles of the churches in our community.

Overall, River City Days weekend was a great success and there are so many people who helped make that happen, but most of all we want to thank God for providing in such a great way.  We specifically said, in the weeks leading up to this weekend, that taking on all that we had to do was definitely bigger than ourselves and that we needed to trust God to come through in a big way.  Well, He did!

Join us at River City Days

Come and visit us at Chaska’s River City Days this weekend, July 23-24.  River City Days is Chaska’s annual community celebration.  It is sponsored by several local community organizations and businesses and features food, games, and arts and Crafts booths.  The festival is held downtown in the Chaska City Square.  You can check out the River City Days website at http://www.chaskarivercitydays.com/.

The River will have a booth this year with clowns making balloon animals, prize drawings for Dunn Bros. gift cards, and opportunities to talk with people from our church family and with Pastor Rob.  Our booth will be located just off of 41 and 3rd Street.  Come on by and visit with us.

Also, on Sunday, July 25 our worship time, which regularly meets at The Rex Cinema, will be moving out to the City Square at 9:30 a.m.  Love INC will be having a fundraising Pancake Breakfast and we will be kicking off a time of worship music with 6 different churches from the surrounding area.  Come on out and join us for this time of worship and breakfast.

That’s My Boy!

So I wanted to take just a moment and brag on my son.   Jacob played baseball this year for the first time since his kindergarten year.  He has focused on basketball and soccer lately, but decided to try baseball again.  His team this year was The Ironbirds in the 9-10 year-old Chaska League. 

Jacob had a decent season in which he learned and grew a lot.  His team showed a lot of promise throughout the season, but kept coming up short and managed to only win one game all season long.  On Tuesday we started the season-ending playoff tournament.  It is a double-elimination tournament, so we were guaranteed at least 2 games.  We kicked things off on Tuesday with a one-run loss, which put us in the loser’s portion of the bracket with a need for a win on Thursday to move on to Saturday’s games. 

The Thursday game was back and forth, but we came into the bottom of the 6th inning down by only 1.  Our first guy got on  base and then eventually made it home when the next hitter also got on base.  That left us tied with the winning run on third.  Our next two batters struck out, leaving us tied with 2 outs and my son Jacob coming up to the plate, and the winning run still on third.  As a father I had some mixed emotions at this point.  I was excited for my son to have a chance to win the game, but also a little nervous for him to be up to bat with such a crucial game situation on the line.  An out would mean the end of the season for the Ironbirds, and a hit would mean a run and a win and the opportunity to keep playing in the playoffs.

So I was a nervous wreck, but Jacob was smooth and calm.  He went up to the plate and hit a line drive up the middle past the pitcher and the 2nd baseman for a single, the game-winning RBI, and a walk off hit!  The entire team and all the parents erupted with wild cheers.  It was the most exciting game of the season and I was jumping up and down and cheering like a little kid. 

That game proved to be the impetus we needed to continue on.  We turned around and played inspired baseball on Saturday, winning the next two games by large margins.  We finally lost in the championship game, after playing 3 straight games on Saturday.  It was an exciting finish to a difficult season.  After winning only 1 game all season long, we finished on a high note and came away with 2nd place for the year.  And my son was one of the heroes of the playoffs.

I told him after the game that he will always remember that hit.  And it should provide extra confidence for him the next time he gets in an important situation like that.  He can always know that he came through in the clutch.  Needless to say I was very proud of him.  Of course, I always love my son, not because of what he does, but just because he is my son.  But I am also watching his life, and there are times, like this past Thursday, when he does something special and while it doesn’t make me love him more, it does cause me to take a moment and point to him and say, “that’s my boy!”

And that got me started thinking.  I can imagine God watching my life like I watch my son.  He always loves me, not because of what I do, but simply because I am His son.  But I would imagine there are those times in life, when I do something special, something that brings Him glory, and He points at me and says, “that’s my boy!”  I hope there are plenty of times like that for Him.

Passing By

So I am writing this blog while sitting at Dunn Bros. on Chestnut Street (41) in beautiful downtown Chaska, Minnesota.  It is a little more empty than normal for this time of day, and there is a sign on the front door that says that they are now closing at 4 p.m.  The reason given is because of the closure of 41.

For those of you non-locals, just a block or so south of Dunn Bros., heading out of Chaska on 41 there is a bridge that takes you over the Minnesota River.  Unfortunately right now, the road is closed because of water damage on the other side of the bridge due to the flooding that happened a few weeks ago.  That means that many people from Shakopee and other areas on the other side of the river must go either to the west or to the east to find a way across to this side of the river.  It is an incovenience for many people, including at least one man from our church who right now has to take the long way around to come and be with us on Sunday mornings.  Thanks Ed!

But the reason I mention this today is because of the effect that this road closure has on Dunn Bros.  Like I said earlier, it is not as full here as usual and there is a sign on the door that says they are closing at 4.  The reason for this lull in activity is that since 41 is closed, many people who would typically pass by here on their way to or from work, are not passing by, and that hurts business. 

Businessess rely on traffic, because as people pass by, they are enticed to stop and come in and spend money.  With the road closed, Dunn Bros. is missing at least a portion of their regular business simply because people are not passing by.  Instead they must rely on people, like me, who come here as a destination.

So let me use this as a quick analogy for temptation.  James 1:14,15 says, “but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”   As we continue on our journey through life, there are many opportunities for us to fall into sin.  We say that we want to do good and we want to make good choices, but we find ourselves giving way to temptation, being dragged away and enticed. 

So how do we stop that?  Well, what we see happening at Dunn Bros. is a good reminder.  People are taking a different route on their journey and are not passing by anymore, and since they don’t pass by they are obviously not tempted to come in.  Dunn Bros is still here and they could still come in and enjoy a nice cup of coffee, but they would need to make it a destination, not just because they passed by. 

The same is true with our lives.  On our journey through life, we need to intentionally stop passing by temptation.  We think we will be strong enough to resist the temptation when we see it, but why allow ourselves to be tempted when a simple change in our journey can allow us to not even face the temptation as often?  For instance, let’s say internet pornography is a temptation that you find difficult to resist.  If you keep getting on the internet without any safeguards in place then you are going to find yourself passing by areas of temptation that will entice you to fall into sin.  Try steering away from that route.  Stop using the internet without safeguards.  Find ways to take a different route so that you don’t even pass by.  And before you know it, you will find that the sin doesn’t so easily entangle you anymore.

Now before I close this blog, I think it is important for me to say that I don’t mean that Dunn Bros. is a source of sin or temptation.  I just like the analogy of not passing by.  The opposite is true of Dunn Bros.  I think this is a great place and I really want Mike and the Dunn Bros crew to make it through this tough time.  So I encourage you to make Dunn Bros a destination, and not just come in when you pass by.

Flood Stages

flood-stages-13So yesterday my family and I went downtown and parked our van near Dunn Bros.  Then we walked over to the bridge heading out of town and joined the throng of people checking out the river.  The bridge was blocked off to traffic because 41 was flooded heading out of town, and there were hundreds of people taking advantage of the beautiful weather to get a look at the river at flood stage.  It was a lot of fun and we ran into several people from the church and also made some new friends.

The river itself is not expected to crest until Wednesday and appears to be rising at a steady rate thanks to all the snow we enjoyed this winter.  Thanks to the work of the town leaders in building up the dike over the last few years, there does not seem to be any danger of Chaska flooding, but the river is definitely at flood stage and it was interesting to stand on the bridge and watch the strong currents of the river as it stretched over it’s banks submerging fields, forests, walkways, and even the local baseball park. 

Speaking of flooding, the Lord gives us a powerful promise in Malachi 3:10, “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.  Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.'” 

Isn’t that a beautiful picture?  God pouring out such a river of blessing that it overflows the river banks and floods the countryside of our lives.  God is more than capable of meeting our every need and nothing is impossible with Him.  This idea of tithing to the Lord even when we are struggling financially is counterintuitive, but we need to remember that we can never outgive God.  He loves us more than we can imagine and He delights in giving us good gifts.  As we are faithful in giving back to Him from the firstfruits of what He has given to us, He takes care of us in ways that we never could have even imagined.  We need to recognize that we can fully trust in God to take care of us, even when our balance sheet is upside down.  We need to give back to Him first, and trust Him to do what seems impossible.  Then take a walk down to the riverbank and watch His river of blessing flood the countryside of our lives.

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It’s Not Easy Being Famous

In case you didn’t see it, there was an article about me in the Chaska Herald this week. Seriously! One of the guys who writes for the Herald visited our church a couple of weeks ago and afterward he asked me a few questions over email and the newspaper wrote it up as an introducation to a new pastor in town. Pretty cool!

Okay, so maybe I am not exactly famous. But I did walk by a guy in the library who was sitting at a table reading the Chaska Herald and it was open to the article on me. I don’t know if he actually was reading that article or a different one on the page, but it is kind of fun to see somebody reading the paper with your photograph on the page. Well, of course it depends on what the article is about. I can think of a few times that would not be such a nice thing.

Anyway, I may not be famous, but it was really great of the Chaska Herald to write the article. They shared some great information about the church and our website and our vision for the community. It brings some great exposure for the church. And who knows, maybe someone will even come and check out the church as a result of that article. If you haven’t seen the article you should pick up a paper and check it out, or you might be able to find the article on the Chaska Herald website.

The Day After…

Brett Favre (AP Photo/Rick Havner)
I know that for many of you, yesterday was a very bad day. I just wanted to take a moment and give you my condolences. I am, of course, talking about the overtime loss the Vikings had against the New Orleans Saints. You probably had high hopes with the Vikings back in the NFC Championship game for the first time in 9 years. Maybe your sights were set on the Super Bowl? But after a silly “12 man in the huddle” penalty, followed by an unfortunate interception by Brett Favre, and losing the coin flip in overtime, one thing led to another and before you knew it Garrett Harley (who dat?) was kicking a field goal in overtime to send the Saints, instead of the Vikings, to the big game.

I have to admit that I don’t share your misery this morning. Actually my son Jacob could hardly sleep last night, not because the Vikings lost, but because the Colts won. That’s right, my family and I are Colts fans. Actually, if you know me, you probably know that I am a die-hard Washington Redskin fan, and I will probably always be, but after living in Indiana for 12 years, I, along with my family grew to love the Colts. We were watching the game yesterday decked out in our best Colts clothing. Even Julie got into the spirit wearing her Colts earrings and my Manning jersey. We were jumping up and down and high fiving each other as time ran out and the Colts beat the New York Jets to win the AFC Championship Game.

We may eventually become Vikings fans, but not yet! And that was very evident yesterday. We were hoping that it would end up being a Colts/Vikings Super Bowl, but we definitely were not devastated when the Vikings lost. So we didn’t feel the same football hangover that probably many of you felt this morning.

But I do know how you feel. I know what that “day after” feeling is like. Like I mentioned before, I am a die-hard Washington Redskins fan, so I know what it is like to have your favorite team lose. Of course, for the Redskins lately their season has ended sometime around week 9 or 10, so that “day after” feeling happens kind of early. But whenever it happens, it is not fun. So you do have my condolences.

But of course there needs to be a point to this blog, and so here it is… Sometimes in life, we have that “day after” feeling with things that are more important than football. You know what I mean? Those times in our lives where we blew it the day before. Or maybe something tragic happened. Or when things are just feeling a lit bit hopeless. But I want to remind us today that, in Christ, those “day after” feelings can be sent packing. Let me remind us of a wonderful verse from the book of Lamentations, chapter 3. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Isn’t that a wonderful promise? I think so! It is a reminder that no matter what happened the day before, no matter how bad we messed up, or what bad news we received, or how bad things are in our lives, God’s compassions are new every morning. He is faithful! What a great reminder to us.

So whether the biggest issue in your life right now is the Vikings loss, or something much greater, be encouraged as you remember the faithfulness of God!

Underlines

Do you like to underline verses in your Bible or do you prefer your Bible to be clean and unmarked? Either way is fine, but let me give you a little nudge toward underlining by sharing with you a couple of reasons why I do it. Obviously Scripture is powerful all the time, since it is God’s Word. But there are times when I am reading or hearing a speaker share from a particular passage, and certain verses just jump out. When that happens, I want to highlight them in some way. It allows me to focus in on the verses as I take extra time to consider them once again and it gives me a visual reference for the future when I go back to look those verses up again. A highlighted or underlined Bible is a constant reminder of those verses that God has specifically used in your life to challenge you, teach you, encourage you, inspire you, or remind you of something. It is powerful to go back years later and read those verses that you underlined so long ago. At times I have spent so much time with some particular verses that I have underlined them, circled or double underlined parts of them, and written notes in the margin. And going back and visiting those verses again is a sweet time.

This year for my devotions I am doing something new. I am reading through the Bible in a year. That is not new. I have done that before. But this year I am doing something a little bit different with it. For each chapter that I read, I am underlining one and only one verse from that chapter. And I am underlining in a different color than I normally use. That is not an easy concept. I suspect there will be times when there is not a verse that I would normally underline and there will be other times when I would like to underline many more than just one verse. But this will help me to focus on these chapters in a new way.

You don’t have to underline your Bible. You can keep it clean. I’m not telling you what to do. But beginning this Sunday, at The River, we are going to be taking a journey together, examining some of those verses and passages from Scripture that we may already have underlined in our Bibles, or that we might want to consider underlining if we don’t have them already. I want to invite you to join us. If you are wondering what verses I will be preaching on each week, you can find out by going to our calendar page. There, if you scroll over the Sunday Morning Worship Time in the calendar you will see a short synopsis of what I will be preaching about that week. I encourage you to go and check out those passages. And consider if they are worth doing some of your own underlining.

Winter Preparations

So, I am new to Minnesota and I am still getting used to some things.  For instance, this weekend I spent Saturday shrinking wrapping my windows to winterize my house.  I have never had to do that before.  I have to admit that I had no idea a hair dryer could be such a useful household tool.  As a homeowner it is good to do those kinds of things that will help prepare our home for winter.  But at this time of year there are also some other preparations that we should be making at our homes as well.

Christmas is just 18 days away.  Usually people say, “only 18 more shopping days til Christmas.”  But it might be better for us to say, “only 18 more preparation days til Christmas.”  I’m not talking about shopping, wrapping, or organizing our Christmas parties.  I am talking about preparing our hearts.  Christmas is one of the most important times of the year.  It is a time for us to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Speaking as a father, this is a critical time for my children.  If I don’t take advantage of this time leading up to Christmas to speak into their lives and teach them what Christmas is really all about, then they are going to be taught by what they see all around them.  If that happens, then they are going to be more excited about getting gifts, eating Christmas cookies, looking at all the christmas decorations in the neighborhood, and watching Frosty the Snowman on television than on focusing on the birth of the Savior.  And who can blame them?  If we don’t take the time to help prepare their hearts, then their hearts are going to be prepared by what they see.  And even though I am no longer 9 years old, the same is true with me.  If all I invest myself in this time of the year is buying Christmas gifts, baking Christmas cookies, and decorating our house to prepare for Christmas, then that is where my heart is going to be too.

So my challenge for us is to make the most of these 18 preparation days before Christmas to prepare our hearts and the hearts of our loved ones for this Christmas season.  So how do we do that?  Well, let me offer a few suggestions…

1) Nativity scene (or Creche) –  Use the nativity scene to help you remember what you are really celebrating.  Give it a prominent place in your decorating.  As you set it up, consider what the different pieces represent.  Maybe even use the nativity scene as a teaching tool.  I have heard of families who build the scene throughout the time leading up to Christmas, having Mary and Joseph arrive on Christmas eve and the baby Jesus on Christmas morning.

2) Christmas carols – Take a walk and sing some of your favorite Christmas carols.  And as you sing, consider what the carols are saying.  We have sung these songs so much it is easy for us to forget the meaning behind the words.  But listen to what you are singing.  It is hard to sing “Joy To The World” and not have a smile come to your face.  Try it.

3) Advent calendar or special devotional – An Advent Calendar is simply a calendar that uses some means of helping you celebrate each day of advent beginning December 1 and leading into Christmas.   The idea is to help you focus each day on some element of the Christmas story.  Last year we started as a family reading through a devotional book called “Jotham’s Journey” by Arnold Ytreeide.  It is broken down into a portion for you to read and talk about each day of advent leading into Christmas.  My kids couldn’t wait for December 1 this year so they could start the book again. 

4) Serve – Find someplace or some way to serve.  Having an opportunity to serve others is a great way to get our focus back where it belongs.  If you are looking for a place to serve in the Chaska area, check out the Love INC (In the Name of Christ) website, www.loveincecc.org

These are just a few ways to prepare you heart.  Maybe you have others.  Feel free to send your comments back about how you like to prepare your heart for the Christmas season.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, everywhere you look it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  If you drive through neighborhoods you see lights and decorations on more and more homes and lawns.  The television commercials and other advertisments are reminding you of all the gifts you need to buy from websites like Flyp.  There are radio stations playing nothing but Christmas music.  I am cutrently sitting in Dunn Bros. sipping my Earl Grey tea from a cup that reminds me to “share the joy.”  You can venture to downtown Minneapolis and enjoy the Holidazzle Christmas parade or the animated holiday display at Macy’s.  And don’t even get me started on the Mall of America.

So along those lines, this weekend I will begin a Christmas sermon series at The River Church.  I will be preaching on the Christmas story from Luke 2.  But during this series we will not be focusing on Santa Claus, or snowflakes, wrapping paper or wreaths.  We will be focusing on the real meaning behind this season. 

I want to invite you to come and check us out during this holiday season.  Or if you have visited us in the past, but it has been awhile, you might want to come back and check us out again.  There are some changes going on and we would love to see you again.

Enjoy this Christmas season.  Go out and check out the lights.  Go downtown and see the parade and the display.  Enjoy your time shopping at the Mall, but also make sure to get to church and spend some time focusing on what this holiday is really all about.

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