Value #2: Truth

By Erin Bird, Truth Blank 350x196 - Value #2: Truth

Hope you are finding some ways to get out and enjoy this wonderful Spring weather. Last week here in the News & Notes, we kicked off a three-part series on the values of Riverwood, starting with Grace. Which means this week, we come to the topic of Truth.

What is Truth?
In John 18Jesus is having a conversation with Pontius Pilate. At this point in the book of John, Jesus has been arrested by the Jewish leaders, has already endured a false trial before the Jewish high court, and is now standing before the Roman governor, who is being pressured by the Jewish leaders to kill him.

Pilate is trying to figure out who Jesus is and why the Jewish leaders handed him over to the Romans to be put to death. As they converse, Jesus says the reason he came to earth was to “testify to the truth.”

But Pilate mocks this concept. He responds, “What is truth?”

Modern-Day Pilates
I think Pilate would fit well in 2019. Many people today say, “what’s true for you may not be true for me,” or cry out “Fake news!” all of which is just another way of echoing Pilate: “What is truth?”

When it comes to food or art – sure, I will admit you can have different “truth.” One person thinks chocolate is amazing while another thinks it’s awful (and we all know THAT person is completely crazy! 😜 ) You could then say these two individuals both speak the truth, even though they have differing opinions.

But with most things in life, you can’t do this. You can’t look at a blue shirt and say it’s red, then claim that it is your “truth” that blue is really red. To do so makes you a modern-day Pilate.

As much as it makes many people in our culture uncomfortable, the fact of the matter is truth is truth. It just is, no matter what you believe or say.

The Knife of Truth
But let me caution you – truth is like a knife. When you “wield” it, some will be scared and run away.

I remember before Riverwood even launched public worship gatherings, I was told by someone who was investigating our yet-to-be church that my teaching was too “fundamentalist,” narrow-minded, and conservative – simply because I chose to believe there was such a thing as truth. (The ironic thing is I’ve also been told I’m not conservative enough!)

But even though truth can seem “scary” to some, the reason we “lean on truth” at Riverwood is because of what Jesus himself said in John 8:32:

“…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

You see, the truth Jesus is talking about is Himself. When you know Jesus, He will set you free from your sin.

Yes, truth sometimes hurts. It is usually uncomfortable to face our sin. But when we let Jesus wield the knife of truth, like a master surgeon, He carves out our sin, removing it from us, so we might be spiritually alive and free.

This is why we lead with grace, welcoming ALL people regardless of their past or present. But we will also lean on truth, leading them to the One who loves them exactly as they are, but loves them too much to leave them that way. We will lead them to the truth of the gospel.

So may YOU lean on truth. May you not be afraid of it. May you continue to study it through reading Scripture and being part of a Growth Group. And as you continue to pursue truth in Jesus, may you experience more and more the freedom He generously gives.

Value #1: Grace

by Erin Bird

As I was considering what to write this week, I realized its been a while since I’ve talked about Riverwood’s three values. So I’d like to take the next couple of weeks here on the blog to talk with you about Grace, Truth, & Trust. Which means this week we start with value numero uno – Grace.

What is Grace?

A few years ago, I heard a story about a cop who pulled over a young man for having an expired license plate. Even though the driver knew the license plate was expired, he simply didn’t have the money to pay for the renewal. Even though he was working hard, his young family was barely making ends meet. So when it came to either paying for the license renewal or feeding his kids, he opted for food. You can’t help but feel for this guy, but the fact remained that he had broken the law and deserved to get a ticket.

Now, if I had been the cop, I would have been tempted to let the guy go. This would have been mercy. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. This guy deserved a ticket, but I might have not given it to him because of his financial situation.

But the cop in the story didn’t show mercy. He didn’t let the young man off with a warning. Instead, he handed him a ticket. But wrapped up inside the ticket was a $100 bill to pay the fine.

That’s grace.

You see, while mercy is not getting what you DO deserve, grace is getting what you DO NOT deserve.

The Greek word for “grace” is the word charis (pronounced “Karis” – now you know where my oldest daughter got her name!). But charis also means “gift.” And that’s what the anonymous cop in the story did. He upheld the law, but at the same time, he dispensed grace to the driver by giving the means to not only pay the fine and renew his license, but renew his wife’s registration as well.

The Power of Grace

value grace2 350x196 - Value #1: GraceIn the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John), we read about Peter’s denial of knowing Jesus. Jesus had been arrested in the middle of the night and dragged off for a “trial.” Peter followed a safe distance behind so he could figure out what was going to happen to Jesus. But a couple of people recognized Peter and asked him, “Aren’t you one of His disciples?” Afraid he too would be arrested and possibly killed for his association with Jesus, Peter emphatically said no. He denied being a Jesus-follower.

So when Jesus is resurrected from the dead, you can understand why Peter would go back to his previous career in fishing. He had failed as a disciple. He had told Jesus he wouldn’t deny being a Jesus-follower, and yet he did. So he went back to the one thing he was good at.

But Jesus wasn’t done with Peter.

In John 21, we see Jesus confront Peter. Peter deserved at least a lecture for his denial, maybe even more. Yet Jesus didn’t give him any of that. He forgave him! He showed Peter mercy.

But Jesus didn’t stop there. He then gave Peter responsibility to move Jesus’ mission forward. Jesus gave him something he didn’t deserve. He gave him responsibility and leadership. He gave him grace.

And we see Peter respond to this grace when he preaches in Acts 2. A throng of people listen to Peter tell about Jesus, and 3000 people made a decision to follow Jesus.

You see, Peter didn’t take the grace that Jesus gave him and take advantage of it. The grace of Jesus launched Peter into something beautiful. Peter didn’t leave the conversation in John 21 thinking he had just gotten away with something. He was humbled by the grace Jesus gave him, and Peter allowed that grace to launch him into something powerful.

That’s why at Riverwood we talk about “leading with grace.” We want to give to people the same kind of grace that Jesus has given us. We believe that when someone truly experiences grace, it will launch them into something beautiful, and rather than just be takers and consumers in life, they too will become grace-dispensers.

And so, if you have seen the depravity of your own sin and realized God has not only shown you mercy by forgiving you of your sins, but also gives you grace by inviting you to follow Him, then give others grace, trusting that God can use that grace to launch them into something beautiful.

Let’s lead with grace. Let’s be grace-dispensers!

Push through the Pain

By Erin Bird, 


Welcome to May!

Hard to believe we are in month five of 2019 already. In just five weeks, kids will be out of school. Rec-League baseball has already started. And the schools are already starting to do “end of the year” events. I’ve often joked that the end of the school year is busier than the end of the calendar year. But, we’ve just got to push through.

Speaking of “pushing through,” I was talking with a friend this week about this idea. As we caught up over coffee (well, hot tea for me…), somehow we got to talking about perseverance. Both of us are dads, and we were sharing that we want to somehow pass on to our kids the importance of “pushing through the pain” (without causing deep psychological harm!). Whether it be going out for a sport, or finishing a homework assignment, or completing a chore at home, we both long for our kids to have a type of tenacity that will later serve them as they get jobs, get married, and hopefully follow Jesus.

Push through the Pain blank 350x196 - Push through the PainCount 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. (James 1:2-4)

The Riverwood Overflow Youth Group just finished up a study of the book of James (using this RightNow Media study). In the first chapter, James encourages his readers to  “push through.”


Here is how he said it:

Joy After the Push
We often bristle at that first sentence. Count it all joy when we run into hard times? Well, yes. Here’s why…

James is encouraging his readers to push through the pain of trials, difficulties, and suffering, knowing that “pushing through,” will change us, maturing us into the image of Jesus, the perfect one. Don’t you want to be like Jesus, loving & living like Him? I know I do. And that should fill us with joy!
So let me ask you, what do you need to “push through” right now? Just like athletes need to push through the pain to achieve their best, do you need to “push through the pain” in one of these areas?

  • Do you need to fight for your marriage?
  • Do you need to buckle down to complete the semester?
  • Do you need to push away the busyness to make time for God and/or your family?
  • Do you need to stop avoiding “that person” and go talk to them?

Whatever it might be, let me encourage you to “push through the pain,” knowing that as you persevere through, God is at work within you making you more like His Son.

The Power of Thanks

by Erin Bird

5th bday slide 350x197 - The Power of Thanks

Wow, what a day we had this past Sunday celebrating Easter & Riverwood’s 5th birthday! We got to enjoy an amazing breakfast, be together as a church family, warmly welcome several first-time guests, and most of all, worship the Resurrected Jesus together. It doesn’t get much better than that!

While there were MANY highlights to this past Easter morning for me, one was the number of people who told me in person or via text or email how much God has used the Riverwood family in their life. It is so encouraging to know God is using our growing church family to help you (and others just like you) grow spiritually, no matter where they are in their spiritual journey. And we’ve only just begun! I am so excited for what the future holds for Riverwood, for the people we are going to touch, for the ways we are going to grow spiritually and numerically, for the changes God will bring us, and for the amazing days awaiting us as we follow Jesus by faith into the future.

Thankfulness Leads to Joy

But while many of you gushed your thanks to me for obeying God and starting Riverwood, I found myself overflowing with thanks for those who helped make the morning so special. My heart was gushing gratitude for everyone who decorated Droste Hall, made the amazing food, led us in worship through music, sacrificially led the kids back in Kids Creek, built the new wood-wall backdrop for the stage, and even sent in a video to wish the Riverwood family “happy birthday.”

power of thanks2 350x196 - The Power of Thanks

And all of this thankfulness got me thinking…

There is a power to thankfulness. As many of you told me “thank you,” I found myself filled with humbled joy. And as my heart burst forth with thanksgiving for everyone who made Sunday so special, again I discovered that same humbled joy.

A grateful heart leads to joy. There is joy-filled power inside the words “thank you,” whether you are giving it or receiving it.

And so if I could give you an assignment: tell someone thank you this week. You could:

  • send a card,
  • shoot them a text,
  • give them a plate of cookies,
  • or just say a hearty in-person “thank you.”

As you do so, it will not only fill you with joy as you express your thanks, but will fill them with joy to know their efforts, time, and energy was noticed.