Learn Four Simple Steps to Follow Jesus!

by Erin Bird

Okay, okay… I admit the headline of this post is over-the-top.

Because in all honesty, following Jesus can’t be reduced to just some “four-step process” that you can master on your own. Following Jesus requires the work of the Holy Spirit to help us surrender on our part and to do the deep work of discipling on His part.

But a “pathway” helps create a framework from which we can understand how the Holy Spirit is calling us to follow Jesus.

This week, as we come to part three in our series on The Riverwood Way, we come to Riverwood’s “pathway” – Gather, Grow, Give, Go. Here’s how we say it “officially”:

Our path to helping people follow Jesus is simple: We invite people to gather together to worship Jesus, to grow spiritually through small groups and personal spiritual disciplines, to give of their FIST (finances, influence, skills, and time) for the sake of Jesus’ Kingdom, and to go into their neighborhoods, workplaces, gyms, other communities, and the ends of the earth with the amazing news of the gospel.

Let’s break that down…

And Now, a Riverwood Infomercial!

At Riverwood, the first “step” we want you to take is to Gather with other Jesus-followers to worship Jesus. There is something powerful when God’s people gather for corporate worship and learning.

But just gathering isn’t enough! Rather, we believe it’s just beginning! Jesus spoke to gathering crowds, but He also spent time helping a smaller group of guys (known as His disciples) go deeper in their understanding of their relationship with the Father. In other words, He helped them Grow.

That’s what we want to do at Riverwood – help you Grow spiritually. We encourage you to take a two-handed approach to spiritual growth – individually and in relationships.

[list type= extra=]
[list_item]Individually, we encourage you to develop personal spiritual disciples like reading the Scripture, praying, and such to help you seek after God.[/list_item]
[list_item]But we also encourage you to get in a Growth Group where God can use relationships to help you go deeper in your faith.[/list_item]
[/list]

But even THAT is not enough! We also want to see you Give your FIST – your Finances, Influence, Skills, and Time. When you serve at the Food Bank, you are giving your time. When you participate with Riverwood in our Christmas Global Impact Gift, you are giving financially. When you do Big Brothers Big Sisters or shovel your neighbor’s drive, you are giving your influence and energy.

But wait, there’s more! We also want to see you Go like Jesus. If Jesus could leave behind His throne in heaven to come to earth to take on human flesh and live incarnationally among mankind,(a person or thing regarded as embodying or exhibiting qualities of Jesus) then we can live “incarnationally” among our neighbors, club members, co-workers, and family. We can be “Jesus with skin on” to those around us, by loving them the way He would love them.

Again, this “Gather, Grow, Give, Go,” is merely a framework to help you seek after God as He molds and shapes you into the image of Jesus. You are wired differently than others, so your spiritual growth will probably look a bit different than others. But the point is that we are following Jesus – and Gather, Grow, Give, Go is a super simple, easy to remember “pathway” that can helps us get on our way to following in the footsteps of our Messiah.

Helping Your Bible Fall Apart So You Don’t

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, possibly one of the greatest preachers who ever lived (other than Jesus!), said “A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.”

I’ve discovered this to often be true. Many times it seems that people who seem to know their Bibles in and out have a life that reveals they are clearly connected to their Creator through the gospel.

But if you like most people, there are times when you struggle to read the Bible. How do you do it? Do you just read it? Is there some magic formula for learning it? Are some people just more gifted to know the Bible than others?

This Sunday, be sure to bring your Bible to our Worship Gathering, because I am going to give you some simple tools that will help you not just read the Bible, but actually allow the Bible to “read” you. If you have ever struggled with reading the Bible and letting it impact your daily life, then be sure to be there Sunday with your Bible.

And if you don’t have a Bible, then grab one off the Give table in the back of our Gathering space (and make it yours!) Or go right now to YouVersion and download the appropriate app for your smartphone or tablet (if you have one).

See you Sunday, with your Bible in hand!

Making 2016 Your Best Year Ever

by Erin Bird

Happy New Year! (One day early!) 😉

For many people, the New Year is seen as an opportunity to make a change… to improve… to do something that will make a difference in their life.

But what if your greatest year can’t be found in making a difference in your own life, but rather by making a difference in the lives of others?

Don’t get me wrong – I want you to be healthy (so go ahead and start exercising 3x per week) and happy (so go ahead and read those 12 books this year). But if you only focus only on yourself, I don’t think you will see 2016 be your greatest year ever. Rather, I think 2016 will be your best year when you make improvements in your life that will enable you to make a difference in other people’s lives.

But how do you make this difference?

I recently watched a video where the speaker said, “To be a difference maker means we have to be disciple makers.”

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”#83A8BC” class=”” size=””]To be a difference maker means we have to be disciple makers.[/pullquote]

I agree. I personally believe the greatest difference is made when people find and follow Jesus (in other words, become disciples of Christ.)

This is why I am excited for this new year. I believe this coming year could be your greatest year ever. And I think it will be because you are going to grow as a follower of Jesus. And as you grow as a disciple (a Jesus-follower), I believe you will then “go and be a blessing,” or to put it another way – make a difference.

That’s the purpose of our next teaching series, entitled New You. Throughout January, we are going to look at:

[list type=unordered extra=]
[list_item]the importance of leadership in your own life,[/list_item]
[list_item]putting the right habits in your life to help you succeed,[/list_item]
[list_item]how your outlook affects your present and your future,[/list_item]
[list_item]and the critical importance of perseverance.[/list_item]
[/list]

So let me strongly encourage you to do everything you can to keep your calendar clear and make it every Sunday morning in January to our weekly Worship Gatherings. These first few weeks of 2016 have the potential to set you up for an amazing year of making a difference in your own life that will ultimately make a difference in the lives of others.

Here’s to what God can do in 2016!

4 Ways to Grow

This past Sunday, we kicked off a two-week series called “Acorn Theology.” (Click here to listen to Week 1). In the first message, I talked about some ways to get into “good soil”, and I’d like to take a moment here to expand upon the message.

Here are four different ways you can grow spiritually:

1) The Bible

I know I seem to say it almost every Sunday, but if you aren’t reading the Scriptures, today is a great day to start! Here are a few resources that might help you develop this critical spiritual discipline:

[list type=unordered extra=]
[list_item]YouVersion is a great website for reading the Bible. (They have a fantastic app, too!) You can choose a reading plan, share notes, and keep track of your progress.[/list_item]
[list_item]I really enjoy using the NET Bible, and seem to regularly return to their Lumina Bible study environment while working on messages for our Worship Gatherings.[/list_item]
[list_item]And of course, we always have copies of the English Standard Version (which I most often teach from) and the New Living Translation (which is a very readable version) on the Grow table each Sunday. If you don’t have a Bible, please take one of these![/list_item]
[/list]

2) Your Unique Pathway

Because God is so creative, He has made every person unique. This leads me to believe that there isn’t just a “one-size-fits-all” approach to spiritual growth. Here are some various ways you might be encouraged to grow spiritually:

[list type=unordered extra=]
[list_item]Reading books by great authors like C.S. Lewis, Tim Keller, Mark Batterson, Craig Groeschel, and many others.[/list_item]
[list_item]Listening to worship music (Hillsong United, Matt Redman, All Sons & Daughters, and Elevation Worship are just a small sample of worship artists I enjoy throughout the week).[/list_item]
[list_item]Being out in nature.[/list_item]
[list_item]Engaging in other spiritual disciplines like fasting, journaling, or concentrated prayer.[/list_item]
[/list]

If you want to check out a resource to learn more about ways to connect with God, I recommend Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas.  Don’t want to buy the book? Then try this free online “quiz.”

3) Podcasts

Listening to podcasts should probably go in the previous category, but I want to make special mention of it. Listening to sermons and podcasts aimed to help you grow spiritually is a great way to spend your time during your commute, while out for a jog, or while mowing the lawn.

Some of the podcasts I’ve been enjoying recently:

[list type=unordered extra=]
[list_item]Jeff Vanderstelt[/list_item]
[list_item]Tim Keller[/list_item]
[list_item]Andy Stanley[/list_item]
[list_item]Matt Chandler[/list_item]
[/list]

You can also listen to an audio Bible through the YouVersion Bible app!

4) Conversations

A fantastic way to grow is through conversations with people. A conversation with someone who doesn’t believe exactly like you will challenge you to figure out exactly what you DO believe. What does the Bible actually say?

At the same time, conversations with people who are pursuing Jesus wholeheartedly will challenge and inspire you to do the same. And a GREAT place to have those conversations is a Growth Group.

We are relaunching Growth Groups this coming week. If you haven’t signed up yet for a group, then [bspam mail=”*protected email*”]send me an email right now[/bspam] as we are putting together groups right now.

And if we can’t get you in a group at a time that works for you, then let me encourage you to just start one! Find someone at work who is willing to take their lunch hour once a week to meet with you to read and study the Bible. Call up a friend who might attend another church and get together for breakfast or coffee once a week. Find a way to have those conversations that will challenge you and help you grow spiritually.

I hope one of these four ways helps you grow in your faith. And be sure to let me know what you find helpful!