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.

Guess 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!

When to Turn Love into a Competition

Well, the 2016 Summer Olympics are over. All of the great competition from elite athletes from all around the world has come to an end for four more years. Sure, there will be world championships and other competitions, but it just isn’t the same as the Olympics.

But I’m in luck! Because this week I get to invite you to participate in the Love Olympics.

Ok, there isn’t such a thing. But because of this week’s verse from Romans 12, I get to invite you to make love a competition.

Love as a Competition

Hopefully you remember that we are walking through Romans 12 here on the blog, discovering what a follower of Jesus looks like. This week we are going to look at verse 10, and it tells us to turn love into a competition.

Well, okay, it doesn’t say that verbatim. Here is what it actually says…

Love one another with brotherly affection.
Outdo one another in showing honor.

In other words, Paul is saying to make love a competition by seeking to outdo one another in showing honor and love and brotherly affection. Think about that!

[list type=unordered extra=]
[list_item]Imagine what marriages would look like if spouses were trying to outdo one another in showing honor to each other.[/list_item]
[list_item]Imagine what your work place would look like if the employees engaged in a contest to see who could do the kindest things to fellow co-workers.[/list_item]
[list_item]Imagine what a church would look like if the members sought to outdo one another in honoring each other through prayer, bringing meals, mowing each others’ lawns, watching each others’ kids, and more.[/list_item]
[/list]

It would be amazing!

But in order for the games to begin, someone has to go first. So why not you? Why not be the one to kick off the Love Olympics in your home or at your work place? Become an elite Jesus-centered lover, who loves like Jesus loved, seeking to win gold at the Love Olympics, by putting others first.

Gifted to Give

by Erin Bird

Hello Riverwood family! Thanks for coming and reading the blog.

Last week in Romans 12, we looked at the unity that should exist among Jesus-followers. This week, as we look at verses 6-8, we’ll talk about the differences that should exist among followers of Jesus. Here are those verses:

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:6-8)

Unity, not Uniformity

Right after talking about the unity of Jesus-followers, Paul talks about the differences. While following Jesus should bring unity, it doesn’t mean we are all uniform. Just like a body has various parts, there are differences among Jesus-followers. And one of the primary places we see these differences is in the area of spiritual gifts.

Every follower of Jesus is not only given the gift OF the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), they also receive a gift FROM the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:7). And those gifts are to be used to help others.

That’s why there have to be a variety of gifts. Because only one gift can’t serve the broad needs of all

For instance, if there was only a gift of mercy, then the person who remains stubbornly in their sin wouldn’t have someone with the gift of exhortation to call them to repentance. Or if we only had the gift of serving, then who would teach us the full counsel of the gospel? We need all the gifts.

Your Gift

This means Riverwood needs you to give your gift(s) to your church body and the surrounding community. There is no unneeded gift. We need you to give your time and passion in the areas that God has gifted you.

So what are your gifts and talents? And are you applying them? (If you are – thank you!!!)

If you aren’t sharing your gift(s) with the Riverwood family, why not? Even if someone else is already serving in that area, it doesn’t mean you aren’t needed. Perhaps someone is serving more out of need instead of giftedness, and God has prepared you to help with that role.

If you have no idea how you might be gifted, then just jump in! Find a spot to start serving. Chances are, over time, you will either discover you are already gifted for an area like that, or you’ll start feeling drawn to something else. Also, ask those who know you (like those in your Growth Group) what areas they think you might be good at, or take an online assessment like this one.

If you look at Romans 12:6-8, you’ll notice Paul assumes that if you follow Jesus, you have a spiritual gift. And if you have a spiritual gift, you should be using it to help others.

So give your gift. Because we all belong to one another.

Serving with a Smile

by Erin Bird

I need to start with an announcement that I forgot to make on Sunday.

This coming Tuesday, July 12, the Waverly Food Bank will be taking place. Each month, many of you arrive and serve so graciously. (You have no idea how honored and proud I am to be your pastor and part of your church family when I see you serving the community so beautifully!)

But we have a problem.

This coming week is ALSO the first-ever Waverly Community VBS. Many of you have also very generously signed up to serve the kids of our area. But this means that you will be at the High School serving with VBS and not at Vineyard serving with the Food Bank.

Therefore, if you are serving at the Food Bank and not at VBS, can you recruit a friend or two (or twelve) to join you? Because VBS is not only taking some of the Riverwood servants out, but also volunteers from Vineyard, Orchard, and Open Bible who also serve at the Food Bank.

And if you are serving at VBS, can you also try to recruit one or two (or twelve!) people to go volunteer at the Vineyard?

Serve with a Smile

As we serve our community this coming week, whether through the Food Bank or through VBS, can I encourage you to serve with a smile?

In both Ephesians 6 and Colossians 3, Paul writes to slaves. Slavery, in his day, was very different than the slavery that exists in our day, the primary difference being that slavery in our day is completely illegal, while in Paul’s day, it was completely legal and normal.

But despite the normalcy of slavery, many slaves had a very hard life. That’s why Paul’s words are surprising. In both letters, he basically says to them…

“Serve with enthusiasm. Work wholeheartedly.”

How can he tell a slave to do this? What if they have a harsh master? What if they aren’t treated kindly? What if the demands are too much?

How can Paul expect a slave to serve with enthusiasm?

Because of what he says next:

“Serve as if you are serving the Lord.”

Jesus died for your sins. He loves you immensely. So if Jesus asked you to do something, you would do it happily and wholeheartedly, as if your life depended on it. So if you would serve Jesus that way, then serve your master the same.

I think this extends to how we serve each month at the Food Bank or next week at VBS. You might help someone at the Food Bank who can do nothing but complain. Or you might have an unruly kid in your group at VBS. In those moments, you don’t want to serve with enthusiasm, you want to smack someone across the face!

But when you look at that person, and realize you are ultimately doing this for Christ because He loved you first and served you by going to the cross for you, even though you didn’t deserve it, you can serve them with a smile!

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