Marked by Love

by Erin Bird

Hope your week is going well. Last week, I asked for your input on what kind of content you wanted on the blog. Thanks to everyone who shared their ideas! (If you didn’t share your ideas, it’s not too late. I kept the survey open, so please give a couple of minutes to share your ideas of what would make this blog most helpful to you.)

Deeper with 1 John

A couple of you indicated through the survey you enjoyed how we went deeper with the Sunday sermon during the Disciplined series on spiritual disciplines here on the Riverwood blog. I’m glad to hear this! This is a big reason why our Growth Groups spend time studying the passage from the previous Sunday in greater depth.

Because our Growth Groups spend time discussing the sermon from Sunday, I don’t plan to use the blog to go into greater depth every week. But I can’t help myself this week, because in my Monday night Growth Group, my wife, LeAnn, shared an amazing profound thought about 1 John I want to share with you.

marked by love2 350x196 - Marked by LoveAs we were using the Growth Group Discussion Guide to discuss the opening section of 1 John, I couldn’t help but tell my Group that as I’ve been studying for this series, it’s really stood out to me how much John not only talks about love, but really seems to love his readers. As I said this, LeAnn audibly said, “huh!” as if a lightbulb just went off in her brain. So I asked if she had just had a thought or insight.

LeAnn said, “Well, we know from John’s gospel that John is known as ‘the disciple Jesus loved.’ I wonder if because John  was so loved by Christ that he couldn’t help but talk about love and shower others with love.”

Wow! What a thought! And I think she’s right.

Which brings up a question.

Being a Beloved Disciple

If you are a follower of Jesus, then you are also a “disciple Jesus loves.” But would those around you describe you as someone marked by this love? Do your words, presence, and actions reveal the love Jesus has for you and also has for them? I know that if John’s words throughout his letter reveal his love for others, I want my words (and actions) to reveal God’s love as well.

So what can you do the rest of this week to let someone know you love them simply because God has lavished you with love through the Gospel? You might:

  • write someone a note
  • send someone a text
  • clean someone’s dishes or mow their lawn
  • drop off a meal or gift at someone’s house
  • call a hurting friend
  • share what you’re learning through Scripture with someone else
  • invite someone over to enjoy a meal or watch a football game
  • grab coffee with a coworker
  • invite someone to your Growth Group or to Sunday morning

May we be people marked by love, which is made evident through the love we give them.

What do You want to Learn?

What do you want to learn blank 350x196 - What do You want to Learn?

by Erin Bird

Every week, we write a blog post with the aim to help you follow Jesus a little more closely. But I find myself wondering if we are accomplishing that task as well as we could be.

So I want to hear from you. What do YOU want to learn?

For instance, do you want to read more about:

  • Marriage?
  • Parenting?
  • Sharing your faith?
  • Integrating your faith into work/school?
  • Finances?
  • or something else entirely?

So here’s an opportunity for you to help shape these News & Notes emails for the Fall and possibly beyond. All you need to do is head over to this online survey, input your thoughts and ideas, and click “Submit”. You could take 30 seconds to share just one idea, or give 3 minutes to share several ideas. It’s all up to you!

Thanks for your help!

How to Fight Temptation

By Erin Bird,

 

This past week, I was talking on the phone with a friend who is struggling with a pornography addiction. How to Fight Temptation Blank 350x196 - How to Fight TemptationHe’s battled this addiction for years, and is frankly tired of losing, so he is fighting with a renewed vigor.

His boldness and sacrifice is inspiring to me (he’s taking some radical steps to fight his addiction), so I left the conversation encouraged. But at the same time, I’ve known people like my friend who have fought an addiction (whether it be pornography, alcohol, overeating, over spending, or whatever you can think of) only to give in again.

This got me wondering – how does a Jesus-follower successfully fight temptation?

Fight Like Jesus
The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus was tempted just like any other human. And like us, those temptations caused Him suffering.

We vividly see this suffering-from-temptation in Matthew 4, when Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness. After the 40 days, Satan showed up, trying to destroy the Trinity by attacking the Son. Because He was fully human, Jesus was fully tempted. And yet, he was able to walk victoriously away from this spiritual battle. How Jesus accomplished this feat gives Jesus-followers some insight on what to do in the face of temptation.

Take a moment to go read Matthew 4:1-11, then join me back here for four things you can do in your fight with temptation.

#1. Realization
The first thing I want to point out in Jesus’ battle is the realization that temptation is not a sin.

Peter tells us in his first letter that Jesus never sinned. And yet, we clearly see in Matthew 4, the Son of Man was strongly tempted. Which means being tempted is not a sin in and of itself.

This should encourage you! Think about it: when you are tempted to:

  • have yet another drink…
  • grab yet another dessert…
  • spend yet more money you don’t have…
  • look at yet more illicit images on your phone…
  • tell yet another lie…

it doesn’t mean you’ve already lost the battle. It merely means you’re human. The temptation is not the sin. Giving into the temptation is.

#2. Scripture
The next thing that jumps out at me in Matthew 4 is how every time Satan tempts Jesus, Jesus responds with Scripture.

Ephesians 6:17 describes the Scriptures as “the sword of the Spirit.” So to slay your temptations, wield the Word.

For example, you could memorize 1 Corinthians 10:13. Then when you feel an urge to give in to temptation, you can say aloud:

“No temptation has overtaken me that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let me be tempted beyond my ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that I may be able to endure it.”

There are so many other verses you could memorize:

Be like Jesus. Use Scripture to fight temptation!

3. Identity
Next, I want you to see from Matthew 4 that each temptation from Satan was actually an attack on Jesus’ identity. He didn’t just say to the Christ, “If you’re hungry…” or “If you want power…” Satan actually said, “If you are the Son of God…”

Likewise, when you are tempted to sin, it is actually an attack on your spiritual identity. Just as he did to Eve in the Garden of Eden, Satan is trying to get you to believe that God is not enough, and that you need the porn or the beer or the new gadget or the nightly ice cream in order to be fulfilled. But if your life is centered on Christ, then Jesus truly is enough. Your identity is fulfilled in the Gospel, and you don’t need to give in to temptation in order to be “more.”

4. Prayer
This fourth and final thought isn’t overtly in the text, so realize I am inferring this last point. But it would seem to me that Jesus was praying all 40 days of fasting before the temptations came, he prayed during the time of temptation, and he prayed after he was tempted. The Son of God was so connected to the Father, prayer would have been as natural to Jesus as breathing.

Through Christ, you also have access to the Father. Hebrews 4:16 tells us to approach God’s throne with confidence. So when you are feeling overwhelmed by temptation, talk to God about it. Come with faith that the Father will hear you and help you in the midst of your suffering. After all, the same power that raised Christ from the dead now dwells in you. So pray and allow God to fight the battle for you.

In closing
I know personally fighting temptation is hard. So I’m well aware that even if you try to apply the four points above, you might find yourself failing far more often than you want.

But if you do fail, know there is grace. “If you confess your sin, God is able and just to forgive you of that sin and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Just because you screwed up yesterday doesn’t mean you have to give in today. So begin afresh. Seek the Father. Keep your eyes on Christ. Wield the Word, pray through the Spirit, and know who you are in Christ. And over time, you will find the temptations weakening in light of the glory of Jesus!

Grow in Groups

By Erin Bird,

For a majority of cultures around the world, people don’t think of themselves individualistically (as many Americans do), rather they view life collectively. Their identity is found in their family, tribe, nation, or race. For instance, if someone in South Korea takes a job, they don’t just wonder “is this the right job for me?”, but rather “is this the right job for my family and people group?”

The ancient cultures in the Bible are more like the collective cultures of today than the individualistic culture of the good ol’ U.S. of A. Which means, when it comes to the concept of discipleship (aka spiritual growth) in Scripture, it can and should be heavily impacted by relationships.

Throughout the New Testament, there are multiple allusions to the idea that church is a family (such as Ephesians 2:19 and 1 Timothy 5:1-2), and healthy families help each other. This is why we will be taking the next two Sundays to look at how we, as a church family, can help one another grow into Christlikeness by intentionally getting into groups.

Growth Groups at Riverwood
Our Growth Groups will be relaunching the week of Sept 9 (including our new Boys Youth Growth Group and Girls Youth Group Group (grades 5 and up)). If you haven’t been part of a group in the past, now is the PERFECT time to get in one. Yes, I know life is busy (I know from personal experience!), but getting into a Group is worth it. And if your schedule just absolutely does not allow you to get into a Growth Group, then start one! Ask a friend from Riverwood to meet for breakfast before work or on Saturdays to get into the Scripture together and pray for one another.

If you want to see your spiritual growth accelerated, then do what you can to intentionally meet with others for the purposes of being discipled by God’s Spirit through God’s Word. You won’t regret it!

Calendar Reminders for Riverwood Partners (Members) 
Before I let you head to the bottom of this email for this week’s News, I want to remind those of you who are Riverwood Partners that we will be holding a Partners’ Meeting on Sunday, Sept 16 to discuss the proposed church constitution and meet our Elder candidates. (If you did not get your copy of the drafted constitution, be looking for it in your mailbox.) And if you are NOT a Riverwood Partner yet, then sign-up for Riverwood 101, taking place on Saturday, Sept 8.