Hospitality

My wife Julie was diagnosed with pneumonia last Friday.  The doctor told her that she had to go home and go to bed.  She was told to treat it as if she was in the hospital even though she was at home.  I know that many people have been praying for her and thankfully she has begun to feel a little better.  The fever finally broke and while the cough is still prevalent, at least some of the pain has subsided. 

Now of course, when mommy is laid up the rest of the home is put in a tough position as well.  The kids still need to be taken care of, the house still needs to be cleaned, the laundry needs to be done, and of course everyone still needs to eat.  We have four children, ages 2-10 and so you can imagine that while Julie has been recuperating, my life has been kind of out of whack.  I have been trying to be both mommy and daddy for the last few days as well as taking care of a sick wife. 

Thankfully my work is flexible and I have been able to do a lot of work from home so that the kids are still okay.  I also can multi-task, at least to some extent, which means that I can get laundry and other household tasks done while also working on my sermon and even writing this blog. 

But one of the reasons these last few days have gone so well is because of the ministry of hospitality provided to us by our River Church family.  Julie’s parents live nearby, but they were on their way out of town when Julie was diagnosed.  Julie’s mom offered to postpone our trip, but I told her to go ahead and go, because while it would be convenient to have her here, we also have a church family here with us and they have really stepped up. 

We have had a few people volunteer to take the kids for a time so that I could get work done or run errands.  And we have had several families that have brought us meals so that I did not have to think about cooking dinner.  What a blessing everyone has been.

This is part of what it means to “be the church.”  We are called to show hospitality to one another.  We are supposed to care for one another.  It isn’t always easy.  It isn’t always convenient.  But we do it because we are called to “be the church.”  I am so thankful to our church family for the blessing they have been during this time of need.  Thanks church!

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.

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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Authentic Community: Proximity and Purpose

Last night at our Leadership Team Meeting, we started talking about “Authentic Community.”  It was a good conversation.  I thought I would share a little bit about this topic in a post, because it is part of our vision statement and it is an imporant piece of who we are in ministry. 

So what is “Authentic Community?”  We get a picture of what it looks like in Acts 2:42-47.  There we see believers who are truly devoted to one another.  So often a church is simply a bunch of loosely connected individuals.  Authentic community happens when we decide to be committed to one another.

In order to build “Authentic Community” there are 2 things that need to happen.  Proximity and purpose.  First of all, we need “proximity.”  That simply means that we need to spend time together.  Hebrews 10:24,25 reminds us of how important this is, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  Too often we forget how important it is for us to be together.  We don’t make it a priority and we consider ourselves too busy to make time for being together outside of Sunday morning.  Then we wonder why we don’t have stronger relationships.  We need to be in proximity with each other if we are going to develop authentic community.  

Then in addition to proximity, we also need purpose.  Consider Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spritiual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”  God has a purpose for us to be together.  We need to recognize that purpose and develop the level of depth that is going to allow that kind of purpose to happen.  So often we are content to simply talk about things like the weather, sports, work, current events and other similar topics.  We need to go beyond that and start talking about where we see God at work, what He is teaching us in our walk with Him, what we are struggling with in our lives, and even where we have fallen. 

When we commit ourselves to proximity and purpose, then we will begin to have authentic community.  Let’s not be satisfied with anything less!

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!

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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