Count It All Joy…in Everything?

pexel joy
This past Sunday, Justin and Nicole Konotopka, challenged us to wrestle with what we read in James 1:2-4,
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
They shared their testimony of the trials and tribulations they have faced this past year and how they are seeing God’s faithfulness through it all as well as discerning his work in their lives as he is making them more mature.  They talked about how even in the midst of the ways their lives have been turned upside down, they are still holding on to God.
After they shared, we had an opportunity to talk as a church about how God has provided us with one another to come alongside each other in times like this.  We can pray for one another and encourage one another and bless one another in times of trials and tribulation.  We don’t need to walk through these times alone.
Our challenge is to continue to grow in what it means to “be the church.”

Neither Hot Nor Cold – Sermon Notes

pexel lukewarmIn Revelation 3:15-16, we find some strong words from Jesus Christ to the church in Laodicea,

‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” – Rev 15-16

The fact that this is a letter to the church in Laodicea suggests that this is for followers of Christ. But it seems that at some point they have lost the passion they once had for Christ and have become complacent and apathetic in their faith.

The other problem is that they apparently don’t even realize that there is anything wrong.

For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” – Rev 17

This seems to be describing people who thought they were spiritual millionaires, but who were actually living in spiritual poverty. It is a warning or a wake-up call for people who didn’t even realize that they needed to be woken up. For whatever reason at some point their passion for Christ was gone and they had become lukewarm even though they thought they were doing just fine.

And then Christ gives them some counsel about what to do in verses 18-19:

“I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.   19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” – Rev 18

They need to recognize that Christ is everything for them. Only he can wash them clean and clothe them in righteousness. Only he can open their eyes that they can see. And what he gives, he gives for free. They don’t earn it, or deserve it. They need to remember the treasure that is Christ and how much they need him.

And then we arrive at a very well-known verse:

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” – Rev. 20

This verse points out the relational aspect of Christianity. It speaks of fellowship with the Lord. He is not a travelling salesman who knocks on our door to sell us something and then goes on his way, but rather one who comes in and establishes residence with us. Christianity is a relationship with Christ.

This is a wonderful passage. But it should cause us to pause and consider ourselves. This is a wakeup call for the church in Laodicea. Let’s ask ourselves a few questions:

  • Is this a wakeup call for us?
  • If we were to get a letter written to us, from Christ, what might it say?
  • Do we find ourselves reflected in this rebuke?
  • Have we grown complacent in our relationship with Christ?
  • Are we lukewarm? And if so, what are we going to do about it?

The Empty Tomb

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.” (John 20:1)

On Easter Sunday we celebrate the fact that Jesus died and rose again.  The above verse from John 20 shares that when Mary arrived at the tomb on Sunday morning, she found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty.  Later on in that same chapter, we find accounts of two different occurrences when the disciples were gathered together in a locked room and Jesus all of a sudden showed up among them.

So considering that locked doors couldn’t stop Jesus, why did the stone blocking the front of the tomb have to be rolled away?  Did Jesus need the stone rolled away so that he could get out?  Obviously not.  When Lazarus was raised from the dead, they had to move the stone to let him come walking out, but this was different.  Lazarus rose from the dead, but eventually died again.  Jesus rose from the dead and then after appearing to more than 500 people over the course of about 40 days, He went to be with the Father again.  We can tell from the resurrection appearances, that Jesus’ resurrected body was different.  Locked doors couldn’t keep him out.  And He didn’t need to have the stone rolled away to get out of the tomb.

So if Jesus didn’t need to have the stone rolled away to rise again, why was it rolled away?  Good question right?  I believe that the stone was rolled away not to let Jesus out, but to let the witnesses in.  The stone was rolled away so that Mary and then Peter and John could see the proof that Jesus body was gone.  The stone was rolled away so that we could see the evidence of the resurrection.

And this Sunday on Easter we will be looking at that evidence.  Consider joining us this Sunday at The River, 2510 Chaska Blvd.  We will start with a breakfast at 8:30, followed by our worship celebration at 9:30.  Everyone is welcome!


My wife and I have been married for almost 17 years now and we are very different.  Before we were married we took a personality survey to see where the strengths and weaknesses might be in our marriage.  The person who was working with us actually asked if we were sure that we wanted to get married.  Our results were about as opposite as they could be.  We have laughed about that many times over the years.  Our differences sometimes make life difficult, but after 17 years I can honestly say that we are better together than we would be apart.  And I know my wife would say the same thing.

The key is that because we have chosen to love each other, even in the midst of our differences we come together in unity.  Of course, that doesn’t always happen the way it should, but overall it does.  And so instead of being a weakness, our differences actually have become a strength in our marriage.

Love and unity are connected.  It is only when we choose to love one another that we can really experience unity.  And that is what we will be talking about this week at The River.  We will be looking at Jesus’ prayer for His Church from John 17:20-26.  Come on out this Sunday and join us.

Have You Been Hurt by Church?

Spending time working out of the local Dunn Bros. coffee shop gives me a different perspective on the church than I would have if I spent most of my time working out of a church office.  It allows me the opportunity to hear, firsthand, what unchurched people think about the church.  Unfortunately, the picture is often not very flattering.

I have had way too many conversations with people who are disillusioned with the church.  They have previously been hurt in the church or have found church people to be judgmental, hypocritical, and unloving.  Others have expressed their concerns over the fractured picture they get of the church.  It seems to them like we can’t even get along with each other, and so if we can’t get our own act together how are we supposed to help anyone else?  Good question.

Now I know that just because we follow Christ does not mean that we are perfect, but this is an area where we need to do better.  Jesus reminds us in John 14 that the world will know we are His followers by the way that we love one another.  If that is the measuring stick, then the conversations I have been hearing are not a good sign.  We need to work on this.  And at The River this Sunday, this passage from John 14 will be our focus.  It is called “Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial,” but I think it is really more about loving one another.  Check it out at John 14:31-38 or come on out to The River this Sunday to find out more.

Meeting Jesus

About 4 or 5 years ago we went to a wedding for one of my wife’s cousins.  While we were at the reception we were talking with Julie’s aunt and found out that Justin Masterson, a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, (who is now with the Cleveland Indians) was there.  He had gone to the same college as Julie’s cousin and they were friends, so he had come to the wedding and reception.

Well, that got my son, Jacob, very interested, because he is a big sports nut.  So Julie’s aunt took Jacob over to meet Justin.  It was very cool.  Justin spent some time talking with Jacob and gave him an autograph.  He was nice and he made Jacob feel very welcome

I have met a variety of different famous people over the years.  Most have made me feel very welcome and have been very accommodating.  But I had one experience that was not so positive.

I was at a mall in Denver and the Lakers were in town to play the Nuggets.  At the time, the Lakers, were one of my favorite basketball teams.  So I knew the players pretty well.  As I was walking down the hall I saw Byron Scott, their starting shooting guard.  I think he was trying to keep a low profile, but I just had to meet him.  So I walked over and tried to talk to him and he just flat out ignored me.  Eventually I walked away.

I don’t blame Byron Scott for not talking with me.  It wasn’t a big deal, but it reminds me of the different ways it can go when you meet someone famous.  Sometimes you get welcomed and other times you get ignored.

Well, this Sunday, we are going to look at a passage from Scripture that opens up with a few people who just wanted to meet Jesus.  They had probably heard about Him somewhere along the line.  He was pretty famous after all.  They were visiting the area where He was, and they wanted to meet Him.

After looking at this story, I am not exactly sure what to make of the response they got.  It almost seems like Jesus ignored them, but He goes on to share a powerful time of teaching that includes information about His coming death and the life that is available through Him.  Whether they met Jesus or not, if they had the opportunity to listen to that time of teaching, it might have been life changing.

You can read about it in John 12:20-36.  Or come on out to The River this Sunday to find out more.

Dinner with Judas

At I found an interesting opinion poll.  They were asking the question, if you found yourself at the most awkward dinner party of all time.  A party filled with both famous and infamous people.  And you found yourself stuck in a conversation with the most awkward guest, who would it be?

Currently leading the poll is Adolf Hitler.  Some of the others on the short list are Charles Manson, OJ Simpson, Charlie Sheen, and Kim Jong Il.  While I agree, being stuck at a dinner party with any of those people would probably be pretty awkward, it does seem to be a bit of a random list.  But let me add one more name.  How would you like to be stuck in an awkward dinner party conversation with Judas Iscariot?

Well, even if that could be arranged, it wouldn’t be the first awkward dinner party conversation that Judas was a part of.  We find one captured for us in John 12:1-8.  It takes place at a dinner party celebrating the raising of Lazarus.  And the awkward conversation is between Judas, Lazarus’ sister Mary, and Jesus.

I will be preaching on that story this Sunday at The River.  And believe it or not, to some extent I actually agree with Judas a little bit in this story.  And in the end I encourage us all to look a little foolish.  Does that peak your interest?  Come on out and join us this Sunday at 9:30, at 2510 Chaska Blvd.  to find out more.

“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 ( 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.