The Imago Dei

By Erin Bird,

Introducing a New Email-Only Series
One of my points in my message on Sunday was that the reason parents are to love and serve their children is because kids are made in the image of God. 

If you’ve been part of Riverwood for more thanThe Imago Dei blank 350x196 - The Imago Dei 3.6 weeks, you have probably caught on that I talk quite a bit about God’s image that was placed in mankind at creation. This theology about God’s image within humans is often called “the Imago Dei.” For me, the “Imago Dei” is a critical part of the gospel. And (in my opinion), this key theological idea speaks into a number of current issues our culture is talking about.

So I want to begin a series here in the News & Notes about the Imago Dei. But I need to warn you – we will be diving into some political issues. In our divisive culture, this can be a dangerous thing for me to do. I rarely jump into political discussions for two reasons:

1. I value relationship more than being right.
2. I am more concerned about a person knowing Jesus than I am about them holding the same political view as me.

However, I am going to step into the political fray a bit to show you, my church family, how the Imago Dei affects our view of people, which will possibly affect our politics.

So let me say this before we shift this email-only series into gear next week: Even if you disagree with my conclusions, please know that I love you, and I do not want you to leave the Riverwood family if you hold a different viewpoint. The Body of Christ, the Church, is all about Jesus, not about everyone holding identical political worldviews.

At the same time, I hope you will read with an open mind, and not just think through the filter of Fox News or CNN or NPR or whatever your parents or university professor taught you. I will not be trying to convince you to support Trump or trash Trump. I will not be stumping for a political candidate or political party. Rather, my aim will be to help you see how the Imago Dei leads us to love like Jesus loved and live like Jesus lived. (And if I’m wrong, you can pray that God will help me understand the truth. 😁)

So be sure to join me next Thursday here in the News & Notes as we jump into the highly-charged topic of race.

True Love

Happy Valentine’s Day,

In this week’s post, I want to do something a bit differently (if not, slightly cliché). Rather than try to wax eloquently with some of my own thoughts, I thought in light of today’s Hallmark-fueled holiday, I would simply remind you of what true love is by sharing nothing more than words from the Scriptures.

My encouragement is not to skim through these words, but to actually take two minutes to read them slowly, pondering exactly what true love is, how God displayed it through Jesus, and wants to now display it through you. So let’s remember the love of God through these words, enjoying His lavish love for us which he wants to lavish upon others through us.

Love Notes from God
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“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” (Ephesians 2:4-6)

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:7-11)

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a)

“Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:10)

“Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:14)

I love you!

Following Jesus to Lead Others

By Erin Bird, 

Following Jesus to Lead Others
Every other Tuesday, Riverwood’s Elder Team discusses a chapter from a great little book simply entitled Church Elders. This past week, we discussed chapter 7 which talked about the importance for an elder to continue to grow spiritually so that he can help those in his church family continue to grow spiritually.

But this got me thinking. Growing to be like Christ so you can help others grow in Christlikeness isn’t just an elder thing to do, it’s a Jesus-follower thing to do.

Because whether you realize it or not, people are watching you. The question is, where are you leading them?
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I remember several years ago slowly crawling out of bed knowing another blanket of snow awaited me on my driveway. That particular year, Cedar Rapids was on pace to set a record for most snowfall in a season, and I was getting sick of clearing my driveway of 6 inches of snow every 4 to 7 days.

As I made my way downstairs, I was greeted with a cheerful boy-soprano call of “Daddy!” from the early bird of our family, my son Salem (who I think was about 4-years-old at the time). He was happily eating breakfast as I kissed him on the head. But his cheerfulness quickly turned to mourning when he saw me putting on my snow boots. “Daddy, I don’t want you to leave!”

I reassured him that I was just going outside to shovel snow (yet again). He immediately pushed his cereal bowl back and said, “I want to come too!”

In that moment, I realized Salem didn’t want to just be with me. He wanted to be like me. Because I could see it in more than his desire to shovel snow with me. I saw it in the way he tried to crack jokes, or watch football on TV, or sit next to me on the couch with his toy laptop while I worked on my Macbook. Whether I wanted to be or not, I was Salem’s hero when he was little. (Now that he’s 15 and taller than me, Salem no longer “looks up” to me; but he is still watching!)

Surfing in Sandals
We see something similar in Matthew 14. After feeding 5000 people with nothing but 5 loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus goes up on a hillside to pray while sending His disciples in a boat to the other side of the lake. In the middle of the night, a windstorm rises up, so Jesus comes walking on the water towards the boat. Needless to say, the disciples were seized with fear seeing a figure moving across the surface of the water in the middle of a storm.

Jesus calls out to them, telling them to calm down. After all, it’s just Him. But then Peter calls back, “If it’s really you, tell me to come to you on the water.”

Stop and think about that for a second. Peter sees Jesus walking on water, and rather than freak out, or try to pull out his smartphone to snap a photo to post on the ‘Gram, he says, “If that’s really you, tell me to join you.”

What would possess Peter to say such a thing?

Ray Vander Laan says the goal of a Jewish disciple in the first century was not just to know what the rabbi knew, but to be just like the rabbi. If this is true, suddenly you understand why Peter would make such a ridiculous request. If Jesus, Peter’s rabbi, could walk on water, then Peter wanted to be just like his rabbi. So Peter jumps out of the boat when Jesus says “come.”

Follow Jesus in the 21st Century
If you are a follower of Jesus, you are a “disciple”, which means you are to not just know about Jesus, you are called to be like Him!

So what are you doing to be like your rabbi?

For me, I seek to get know Jesus better so I can live more like Him. I get to know Him more through the Scriptures, in prayer, in worship, through conversation with others, and more. Yet, I know I follow Jesus extremely imperfectly. Which made me a bit nervous when my 4-year-old son’s eyes were on me. But now, it isn’t just a 4-year-old watching me follow Jesus: it’s my college age daughters, and my teenage sons, and my neighbors, and my church family.

Whether you realize it or not, someone has their eyes on you as well. It might be your own kids, a co-worker who is curious about your faith, a neighbor who finds your church attendance a little bit odd, a friend who has spiritual questions, a family member who is still trying to figure out this Jesus thing you’ve aligned yourself with, or simply a friend in Growth Group. This is why each Sunday at our Worship Gatherings and each Thursday in these Notes I encourage you to follow Jesus and make His Gospel the center of your life and identity. Because the more you get to know Him, the more you will be like Him. And the more you love like Jesus loved and live like Jesus lived, the more capable you will be to lead others to follow the One you are already following.

How to be a Wall Socket

by Erin Bird

Have you ever considered the existence of the electrical outlet before? There he is, stuck in a perpetual wall-sit as if being punished for some unspeakable crime. And perhaps he did commit a crime, because he has a bad temper. Turns out if you poke his eyes with scissors, he gets very angry, spitting electrical sparks at you. (Not that I would know from 6th grade study hall or anything…).

Dressed in only a modest cover, there he sits, all alone against the wall. But to leave him alone renders him completely useless.  Mr. Wall Socket was not created simply to be. (He makes a rather uninspiring wall decoration.) His purpose in life is to provide electricity for some man-made contraption. In other words, he exists to serve something (or someone) else.

wall socket2 350x196 - How to be a Wall SocketGuess what? You are an electrical outlet. Whether you realize it or not, you were made to live for more than just you. You were not designed to remain alone, or just be another pretty face among the crowd. You were put on earth to interact with some God-made contraptions called humans.

Years ago, when I was ministering as the Young Adult Pastor at a church in Cedar Rapids, I remember reading the spiritual journey of one of the young adults in my church family. She shared a very clear story of how she found Jesus and how God had used pivotal moments in her life to shape her more into the image of Jesus.

But what struck me most in her writing was this quote:

“Up to this point [in my life], I’ve really been focused on growing myself spiritually. But now, I think I need to start focusing on what I can give to others.”

She was right. We can so often get focused on our own lives, including our own spiritual growth, that we forget that a big part of following Jesus is serving others like Jesus served others. After all, if we are going to live like Jesus lived, then we should emulate his mission statement:

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”(Mark 10:45)

To put it another way, we aren’t to just sit on the wall. Instead, we should “plug in” and serve others. Here are two places you can “plug in”:

#1. Serve the Riverwood Family

Many of those within the Riverwood family are already serving one another. It’s so fun watching them greet at the door, or serve the kids in Kids Creek, or help clean-up after the Worship Gathering. But if you are part of Riverwood aren’t actively serving our church family, why not give it a try? We won’t arm twist you into doing something, but we’d love for you to take the gifts and energies God has placed in you and plug them into the life of Riverwood. Simply contact us about an area you’d love to help with (even if you think it’s an area that’s already “covered”) and we’ll do what we can to help you give some of your time and skills to making Riverwood an even better church family.

#2. Serve Where You’re At

Just like an electrician put the electrical outlet in a certain spot on the wall, God has put you in a certain spot. So how can you serve those in your neighborhood, or in your class, or in your job, or at the gym, or at the coffeeshop you go to three times per week? Find ways to give life and energy to those around you by serving them through the love God has shown you through the cross.

To sum this all up: Don’t just sit there; connect with those around you by serving them. You just might find the results a bit electrifying to your spiritual life!