This past Sunday we were blessed to host the ordination service for Chris O’Dell at The River. Chris and his wife Jamie were part of The River in the early days and then left for ministry in Taiwan. They serve at a coffee shop/church called The Aroma. You can find out more about their ministry and how to partner with them on The Aroma Website. Chris and Jamie and their boys continue to be part of The River extended family and we partner with them as they are ministering in Taipei. It is a great partnership considering our similar kind of ministry focus at Dunn Bros. here in Chaska. This is a way for us to be fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission for us in Matthew 28:19-20 where he says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” We are in the process of making disciples here in Chaska, MN and at the same time we are partnering with them in making disciples among people we may never meet this side of Heaven as we partner with Chris and Jamie in Taiwan. Please join us in supporting them. Check out The Aroma Website for more information.
Tonight I will be doing a funeral for an 18 year old girl who died tragically last week. Her name was Bridgette and she worked at the local Dunn Bros. coffee shop. Since we don’t have an office, I spend most of my afternoons over at Dunn Bros. working from one of the comfortable chairs near the roaster. And it was there that I got to know Bridgette. She often would come and talk with me in between customers. She had been through many struggles, but was really putting her life back together. She was getting ready to leave the following morning for college. Her car was already packed with all of her belongings. She had goals, dreams, and plans that she was about to pursue.
My reaction to her death has been all over the place. From shock, to sadness, to a refusal to accept it, with maybe even a little bit of anger thrown in for good measure. I will miss Bridgette. And it doesn’t seem fair. Why her? Why now?
Actually, it is only natural for a tragedy like this to bring up all sorts of questions. At a time like this, many people question the meaning of life, or what happens to us when we die, or what in the world God is doing? And that is understandable. Right now many people are hurting, or confused, or angry, or frustrated, or depressed over what happened to Bridgette.
And it is at times like this that I am reminded how nice it is that I believe in a God who is bigger than all my questions. I believe in a God who can handle my anger and frustration, and who understands my confusion and depression. He is a God of Hope. A God of Truth. A God of Love. He is faithful, even when I am struggling with making sense of what is going on.
For those of you who may also be struggling with questions, I encourage you to find your answer in God. Check out some of the other blogs in this website to find out more about this God that I am talking about. I particularly recommend the blog, called “A Glimmer of Hope.” It talks about a man who was able to have hope in the midst of a terrible time.
I also want to invite you to share your questions and thoughts with me. You can typically find me on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday afternoons over at Dunn Bros. (corner of 2nd street and HWY 41, downtown Chaska) sitting in one of the big comfy chairs by the window and the roaster. Feel free to come over and join me. I would love to talk with you more about hope. You can also feel free to send an email or give me a call, or even consider stopping by some Sunday for church. The River is a great place to come if you have some questions about who God is.
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!
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.
So 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.
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.