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.

Love All This Christmas

by Erin Bird

So how’s your Christmas season going thus far? According to the Christmas songs, this should be your favorite time of year.

But is it?

When you are at the office Christmas party, and John has had a little too much to drink and begins to dance with the plant in the corner of the hotel ballroom, you begin to wonder if this really is your favorite time of year.

Or when Aunt Sally launches into another opinionated tirade right as the family sits down for Christmas dinner, you roll your eyes and wonder why people say this is the most wonderful time of the year.

To be quite honest, it can be quite difficult to love certain people this time of the year. How do you show love to someone you would rather bash on the noggin with the elf on the shelf?

Well, if you don’t want to spend your Christmas in jail for assault, here’s some advice:

1. Pray

It’s seems cliché and overly-Christian-y, but you really should try it. If you know you are headed into a situation where you’d rather deck someone than deck the halls, pray before you walk in. Ask God to help you love like Jesus loved. (Because some of those Pharisees that judged Jesus were mighty irritating, but we don’t see Jesus sticking those dudes on the cross. Rather he died for them and their sin.)

Oftentimes when you pray for someone, you end up caring about them. So the starting point to Love All is to pray for those you struggle with.

2. Plan

Make a plan for what you are going to do when Grandpa starts complaining about a fringe political issue that no one else even cares about. What would show love to him and help him be emotionally healthy? Is it listening? Is it to calmly walk away? Is it to gently share an opposing view and help him see that he isn’t nearly as right as he thinks? Prepare now for what would truly help the other person feel loved without enabling him or her to offend others.

In other words, apply Peter’s advice: “[I]n your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)

3. Give

gift 350px 350x234 - Love All This ChristmasLast week, we looked at the topic of Give More. What could you give to the “extra-grace-required” person in your life that will communicate the love of God to them without giving them continued permission to be a jerk? It could be a meaningful present, it could be something homemade, it could be your time, or maybe you could give a donation to a cause in their name.

As Proverbs 25:21-22 says: “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”

A Real Life Example

I remember a couple years ago, a friend of mine was complaining about her husband. They weren’t getting along. He was spending his time on things of which she didn’t approve, and he knew she was silently judging him. Even the kids were noticing the tension at home.

Because she knows I am a pastor, she asked me what she should do as a Jesus-follower. After we talked through some of what the Bible says about marriage and her role as a wife, I asked what her husband’s love language was. She said, “Gift giving.” So I suggested she get him a gift to indicate she still loved him and that he is important to her.

She glared at me for a moment, then grunted, “Darn it! You’re right. I don’t like it, but you’re right!”

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Well, that very night, she was browsing a clearance rack and found some super-soft pajama pants at an amazingly low price. Immediately she knew her husband would love them. She told me she didn’t want to do anything nice for him, but she sensed God telling her to get them. So she prayed God would change her heart toward her husband as she threw the pajama bottoms into her shopping cart.

Well, guess what… it worked! Her husband LOVED the gift, felt incredibly honored, and then apologized for his behavior and decisions. She was overwhelmed that because:

  • she had prayed about the situation,
  • made a plan (reluctantly) to show love,
  • then gave him something,

it helped to repair the breach they were both feeling in their relationship.

I can’t guarantee if you follow my friend’s actions, you’ll also experience immediate relational connection. But I do know that God calls you to love.

And yes, that includes your crazy Uncle Joe with his wacky conspiracy theories.

Thankful for God’s Enduring Love

Thanks for opening up another Riverwood blog post. Today, we continue our series for the month of November, looking at thanksgiving-themed Psalms. Today, Pastor Jeff Willis looks at Psalm 136. Enjoy as he leads us to consider God’s Enduring Love.

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“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever.”

The most repeated verse in the Bible is a favorite of mine: “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His love endures forever.” It’s repeated forty-four times in the Bible! (Sometimes the wording is slightly different, and in twenty-six instances, just the last half is provided, usually because it’s being used as a refrain associated with the whole verse which was just offered.)

An example is Psalm 136, a great Psalm of Thanks and Praise to God. In it there are four times the Psalmist prays, “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever.” (Psalm 136:1, 2, 3, 26; each verse uses a different name for God).

Just like the Lord’s Prayer teaches us how to pray, so Psalm 136 teaches us how to give thanks and praise to God. It’s a little known psalm, perhaps because it’s a bit longer than most psalms and it’s focused on specific aspects of Israel’s history.

Psalm 136 begins and ends in the way that we ought to begin and end all that we do: by praising God for who He is (honoring His name and His character). In the middle we give thanks to God for what He does for us in creation, redemption, and daily provision (the three foundational ways that God relates to us). The Psalmist is modeling for us the basic ways of showing our appreciation and admiration for the Lord.

Psalm 136 in Miniature

gods enduring love2 350x196 - Thankful for God's Enduring LovePutting together each of the five key verses of Psalm 136 makes a wonderful Psalm of Thanks and Praise in miniature. It’s easy to memorize! Then we can pray or sing it to the Lord anytime.

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His love endures forever. (Verses 1-3)
Give thanks to the Lord for he creates wonders. His love endures forever. (Verses 4-9)
Give thanks to the Lord for he delivers us. His love endures forever. (Verses 10-24)
Give thanks to the Lord for he gives us food each day. His love endures forever. (Verse 25)
Give thanks to the God of the Heavens for he is good. His love endures forever. (Verse 26)

Creating your own Thanks and Praise

The Psalms are for us to pray and sing. They are also models to teach us to offer our own personal prayers and songs. Psalm 136 is perfect for this. You can do this in your private devotions or it’s even better to share it with a friend or small group, or as a family.

Each of the verses above can easily be personalized for you to offer your own expression of thanks or praise to God in the same manner as Psalm 136. The prayer starters below will help you. I have chosen a different name for God to fit each prayer, but feel free to address God by any one of His other names too.

Dear Lord God, I admire that you are ________.
Dear God, my Creator, I appreciate the beauty of your creation in _________.
Dear Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for delivering me from __________.
Dear Father, thank you for providing me with ___________.
Dear God of the Heavens, I admire that you are __________.

So I encourage you to use Psalm 136 as a guide for prayer and worship to help you give thanks and praise to God for his enduring love.

Love One Another

by Erin Bird

How’s your week been going? Mine has been going quite well!

  • I loved last Sunday’s Baptism Worship Gathering.
  • I heard from a church planting friend who saw two students make decisions to follow Jesus during a church potluck last Sunday.
  • I got to chat with my church planting coach (who is coming this Sunday to teach at Riverwood).
  • I got to work on some “future stuff” for Riverwood.
  • I’ve gotten some quality time with my family.
  • And my Kansas City Royals have started winning again. 🙂

So yeah, it’s been a good week!

One Another Series

Today we are starting a new series on the five “one anothers” we find in the book of Romans. Before we get to our first “one another” let me set the stage.

In Romans chapters 1-11, the Apostle Paul wrote about the gospel. Like a skilled lawyer, Paul showed the importance and necessity of the gospel for all people.

Then in chapter 12, Paul makes a turn. He moves from discussing the theological and philosophical implications of the gospel to the practical application of the gospel. In verse 10, as he is helping his readers apply the gospel to their lives, Paul writes…

“Love one another with brotherly affection.”

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When you’ve been impacted by the gospel, realizing the love God has for you, it should lead you to love others.

Redefining Love

When I went on Unsplash to look for an image for this email, I typed in the search bar “love.” And the first images that popped up all reflected romantic love.

So often, when we think of “love,” we think kisses, hand holding, smiles, fluttering hearts, consuming thoughts, and all the trappings of romantic love.

But love is so much more than just dating and marriage.

  • It’s encouraging a co-worker.
  • It’s listening to a friend.
  • It’s serving a neighbor.
  • It’s giving a hug to someone in your church family.
  • It’s sending a letter of appreciation to someone.
  • It’s giving a gift to someone going through a tough moment.

This is the type of love that Paul is talking about in Romans 12:10. If you follow Jesus, how can you show this type of love to others, especially those who also follow Jesus? What do you need to do this week at work, at home, or out in your neighborhood to show love with brotherly affection?

Let us show love together to those in our church family and outside of it, because the love of Jesus has changed us.