I Love This Place…
In Eagle River we have a group called the Ministerial Alliance. It’s a group of pastors from local churches that meet together once per month just to hang out and fellowship. I really like it because it reminds me of how complex God must be. I mean the people there only have one thing in common really... their love for Jesus.
We have lots of opinions about what that means. Lots of ideas on what’s ok and what’s not. But since the only thing we have to agree on is Jesus then we have more that unites us than divides us (although it may not seem like it on the surface).
Once a month I’ll see a Lutheran pastor sitting and talking with a Baptist preacher. A Catholic priest eating with an Episcopalian rector. A Charismatic Pentecostal pastor fellowshipping with a Methodist pastor. We all have widely held views on how the Bible tells us to live but we set that aside to focus on Jesus. It really is a beautiful thing. I think God must think it’s awesome.
That’s a pretty good picture of what I think God has called us to do at Riverside. We don’t focus on opinions of how to or how not live (it’s not that we don’t have our opinions... it’s just that God has called us to a rather unique mission where those opinions get in the way rather than help). We focus on one thing at Riverside... Jesus.
I got one of the greatest compliments of my life when one of our members said her friend was looking for a new church because they never talked about Jesus. She told her friend, “come to Riverside... Jesus is all you’ll hear about here.”
And when we do this right at Riverside miracles happen in people’s lives. People who would have turned around and run for the door if I started shaking my finger at them and telling them how they should/shouldn’t live are able to let their guard down. They see a ridiculous video clip that makes some of us shudder but totally disarms people who are wary of churches. They are able to sit and listen as the Spirit of God works on their hearts. And they are invited to follow this Jesus and live a life designed by Him... not by us.
When that happens all bets are off. The Spirit will lead them and convict them of what they’re doing wrong and lead them into the life He has planned. What I’ve learned over 14 1/2 years of this is, if I get loud about a particular subject or behavior then not much happens except the people who agree with me nod their heads and those who don’t put up walls. But if only get loud about Jesus (the one thing we are committed to getting loud about at Riverside) then Jesus can get loud with them when the time comes and that’s really the only way I’ve ever seen lasting change take place. And I’ve seen it over and over again. People coming in to Riverside already believing they know what we’re going to be about and being disarmed and charmed to the point where they open up to Jesus and then He changes them radically. It’s miraculous and it’s so exciting to be a part of. But it takes complete commitment to the idea of not judging. To the idea of loving, accepting and forgiving even (and I might say especially) people that we disagree with and worry about and want to help them get back on the right track. I’ve never been able to get someone else back on the right track (not that I haven’t tried...), but I’ve seen Jesus do it over and over again when I’m smart enough to just point people to Him and then I get out of His way.
So how about it? Are you willing to accept people just the way they are? It’s not easy. It’s terrifying and confusing and frustrating and beautiful and amazing and overwhelming and (I could go on all day...)...
- Whatâ€™s Really Important
When Jesus was asked what the most important command in the entire Bible was His answer was that we must love God & love each other. For this reason everything we do at Riverside is governed by love. It is of utmost importance to us that we treat others in a way that reflects how God has treated us. Does that mean we always make the right choices? No. Because we donâ€™t have the perspective that Jesus did we canâ€™t always make the right decisions- so we have committed ourselves to the principle that if we make a mistake (which, believe it or not, we do from time to time), we will make it on the side of love.
In matters of faith we have unity, in matters of opinion we have liberty, and in all things we demonstrate love.
What Are "Matters Of Faith"?
As far as we can tell there is only one thing that you canâ€™t be wrong about and still be a Christianâ€“ and thatâ€™s Jesus. So our â€œMatters Of Faithâ€ÂÂ in which we have unity at Riverside revolve around Him.
~Jesus answered, â€œI am the way, and the truth, and the life. The only way to the Father is through me.â€ÂÂ John 14:6 (NLT)
~Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit, and bind yourselves together with peace. We are all one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to the same glorious future. There is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and there is only one God and Father. Ephesians 4:3-6 (NLT)
~I passed on to you what was most important- that Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, as the Scriptures said. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NLT)
What Are "Matters Of Opinion"?
The Church at Rome had some pretty big disagreements! Paulâ€™s solution was to get over it and stop fighting about stuff that wasnâ€™t central! Focus on Jesus, he said, and the rest will take care of itself. If we love, accept and forgive (as Jesus did) we can create a church that God will be proud of.
~Accept into your group someone who is weak in faith, and do not argue about opinionsâ€¦ Who are you to condemn God's servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong... each of us will have to answer to God... So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Romans 14 (NCV)
~Weâ€™re not in charge of how you live out the faith, looking over your shoulders, suspiciously critical. Weâ€™re partners, working alongside you, joyfully expectant. I know that you stand by your own faith, not by ours. 2 Corinthians 1:24 (MES)
What About "Demonstrating Love"?
There were some guys in Jesusâ€™ day who always had to be right, and always thought they were. They were called Pharisees. They were also about the only people Jesus ever got truly fed up with because they were more concerned with the right answers than they were with people. We remind ourselves constantly not to make the same mistake by loving others like Jesus did.
~If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I knew all the mysteries of the future and knew everything about everything, but didn't love others, what good would I be? â€¦Let love be your highest goal. 1 Corinthians 13:2 & 14:1
~I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you. And here is how to measure it- the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends. John 15:12-13
We love questions. If you have any please talk to Ed or anyone else that looks like they might know whatâ€™s going on around here. And if youâ€™d like to make an appointment to talk to Ed or Judy (or both of them) just give them a call at home- Ed doesnâ€™t really keep regular office hours but heâ€™d love to sit down with you and talk about whateverâ€™s on your mind.