River City Church - Smyrna, GA
The Wheat and the Weeds

The Wheat and the Weeds

July 19, 2020

Josh shares from another parable in Matthew 13 today that can create a tension within us when we read it. Jesus is describing a sower who sows good seed in his field, and an enemy who comes in the night and sows weeds in that same field. We -- like the disciples, I imagine -- are tempted to get caught wondering whether we are the wheat or the weeds that grow in that field. Whether we should tear up the weeds right now. Why isn't our first response: "Thank you, Lord, that You are going to restore?" Jesus isn't in a hurry to separate what's in the field. There will be a time for that, and that isn't our responsibility. Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. 

Josh shared a number of paradoxes that carry a similar tension and require us to pause to wrestle with them: 

1) God is One & Three. 

2) Jesus is God & human. 

3) The Bible is the Word of God & authored by flawed humans. 

4) Creation is good & broken.

5) To give is to receive. 

6) To die is to live. 

7) To pardon is to be pardoned. 

8) To be weak is to be strong. 

The Reckless Sower

The Reckless Sower

July 12, 2020

Josh shares about the familiar parable from Matthew 13 about the sower who casts seed on a variety of soils and what happens to the seeds sown in those soils. We have a tendency to view this parable as the "Parable of the Soils," getting caught up in identifying which soil describes our spiritual walk. But Jesus is telling the "Parable of the Sower." He is describing the reckless way He loves. He is reminding us that the Kingdom is a seed planted within us by Him and that we cannot produce the fruit of that without Him. Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23; Galatians 3:1-3; 1 Corinthians 3:7; John 15:1-4; Colossians 3:12-17; Micah 6:8. 

Sin and Doing the Things I Don’t Want to Do

Sin and Doing the Things I Don’t Want to Do

July 5, 2020

Josh shares a message from Romans 7 where Paul is talking about how sin lies near when he tries to do good. Sin is not a word we like to discuss. We aren't comfortable with the reality that there is something at play that interferes with our lives. But if we can't name the sin in our lives -- the things that need the grace we like to talk about -- we can't receive the grace that abounds through Jesus. Romans 7:15-25; Romans 5:20. 

Josh shared a quote from Debi Thomas' website today. You can find that essay here: https://www.journeywithjesus.net/essays/2678-a-lighter-burden

A People Who Listen for God

A People Who Listen for God

June 28, 2020

Josh shares from Jeremiah 28 about competing words from the Lord declared by the prophets Hananiah and Jeremiah. Hananiah is declaring what the people want to hear. Jeremiah is declaring a word from the Lord that is difficult to hear, but he is the picture of ongoing rootedness with God. The people are left with a question that we still must face today: "How do we discern Yahweh's voice?" Matthew 18:20; 1 Peter 2:9; Hebrews 10:24-25; Proverbs 16:9; Jeremiah 28. 

Church Everywhere - Praise & Worship

Church Everywhere - Praise & Worship

June 21, 2020

Josh provides an update on regathering, and Justin Boggs talks to us about praise and worship. Justin explains that worship is how we live. Praise and worship help us connect our hearts with the heart of the Father. Romans 12:1; Hebrews 13:15-16; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18; Psalm 63:1-8; Psalm 86: 9-10; Matthew 12:34; 1 Peter 2:9.

Justin shared a quote from Aaron Keyes: "Worship is the natural expression of what is at the center of our lives." 

Church Everywhere - Moving Into the Neighborhood as Guests

Church Everywhere - Moving Into the Neighborhood as Guests

June 7, 2020

Josh looks at Matthew 28 and Luke 10 considering Jesus' instruction for us to go into the world and the importance of listening to those we interact with in our neighborhoods. Instead of dictating what is needed or expecting people to come receive what we have, we can sit as a guest at the mercy of others, learn what is needed, and follow the Spirit's lead to serve. 

Josh shared some quotes today: 

1) Apostles' Creed: "I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy apostolic Church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen."

2) Dwight Shirley: "Church finds its identity when it participates in the mission of God."

3) Steven P. Eason: "Disciples are students. They are like interns. Interns are watching, practicing under supervision, asking questions, making mistakes, and learning from them. Jesus said very clearly, 'Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.' Go make students of Christ. Put people in internships, into a lifelong learning process. That is a major paradigm shift from making church members or whatever else we substitute for discipleship."

Josh also mentioned the book, "Black and White: Disrupting Racism One Friendship at a Time." Here are a couple of links to purchase the book: 

a) Amazon: https://amzn.to/3h0aTP8

b) Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/2Mx4ay2

Church Everywhere - Pentecost Sunday

Church Everywhere - Pentecost Sunday

May 31, 2020

Josh looks at the Pentecost story in Acts 2 today, and we see what can happen when we wait on God and step out in boldness when the Holy Spirit prompts us. We cannot see Acts 2 without the waiting disciples of Acts 1. The Church involves both the Spirit and the spiritual practices. The Church is about both freedom and structure. If we will wait on God and learn the languages of others around us, the Holy Spirit will lead us into powerful and life-changing moments as well. 

Josh shared several quotes today: 

1) Nathan Clair: "I want Eucharist and ecstatic tongues. I want the processional with thurifer/crucifer and harp and bowl singing. I want antiphonal chanted Psalms and open mic prayer/prophecy. I want Creeds, the Our Father, and miraculous healings, dancing in the aisles. I want it all."

2) Debi Thomas: "What the crowds found baffling was that God would condescend to speak to them in their own mother-tongues. That he would welcome them so intimately, with words and expressions hearkening back to their birthplaces, their childhoods, their beloved cities, countries, and cultures of origin. As if to say, 'This Spirit-drenched place, this fledgling church, this new Body of Christ, is yours. You don't have to feel like outsiders here; we speak your language too. Come in. Come in and feel at home.' "

3) "The power of the Holy Spirit in worship services resembles the vision of poet-theologian Amos Wilder: 'The world is molten and hearts are sifted. The altar is like a third rail that spatters sparks. The sanctuary is like the chamber next to an atomic oven. There are invisible rays, and you leave your watch outside.' Spiritual power can create thundering choirs, soaring rhetoric over-the-top praise bands, and sermons that rock with joy. It can create congregations who sing with their hearts in their faces, pray without ceasing, and extend themselves for others. Many congregations can use a reminder of these facts."




Church Everywhere - A Place of Waiting

Church Everywhere - A Place of Waiting

May 24, 2020

Josh looks at John 17 and Acts 1 today, and we see Jesus praying for the disciples to "be one" as Jesus and the Father are one. Before His ascension, Jesus tells the disciples to return to the upper room to wait. Jesus understands that the unity they must forge will come in the waiting together before the Holy Spirit comes. In the waiting, they will be formed. And in our own lives, we may not like the waiting, but if we will submit to the waiting Jesus calls us to, we too can be formed more into His image. John 17:1-11; John 13:35; Acts 1:6-14. 

Josh shared a quote today from Rick Mixon: "Jesus spent his postresurrection time with them reinforcing all he had tried to teach them about the reign of God. No, it would not be like the return of the glorious old Davidic kingdom for which they longed. Jesus would not fulfill their rapidly disappearing hope of driving out the Romans, doing in the religious authorities, overthrowing the rich and powerful, and putting them in those places instead. The reign of God would, however, come riding on their shoulders, through the work of their hands, following the journeys of their feet. What is this realm of God? Is it just spiritual? Is it also social and political? What will it look like, feel like, sound like, taste like? How will it work? Who will be in charge, and what will be their (and our) roles in such a realm? When will it come? William Barclay offers the perspective that 'by the Kingdom Jesus meant a society upon earth where God's will would be as perfectly done as it is in heaven. Because of that very fact, it would be a Kingdom founded on love and not on power.' So this coming reign of God will be characterized by love and its cousins, compassion and justice, not by power and privilege, wealth or might."

Church Everywhere - God Is Not Far

Church Everywhere - God Is Not Far

May 17, 2020

Looking at John 14 and Acts 17, Jordan shares about how Paul, guided by the Holy Spirit, presented the gospel to the people of Athens. In the pluralistic society of Athens, Paul took the time to observe the people and their search for meaning in the array of ideas and philosophies they regularly discussed. Paul encouraged them that their search, if they'll take it farther, is bringing them to Jesus who has been present with them all along through the Spirit. Likewise, we live in a pluralistic world and have an opportunity to observe our community, ask questions, learn what is needed, and discern how to bring the gospel. John 14:15-21; Acts 17:16-31. 

Church Everywhere - An Invitation to Trust

Church Everywhere - An Invitation to Trust

May 10, 2020

As we step into the month of May focusing on listening prayer, Josh looks at passages in 1 Peter and John 14 which illustrate who Jesus is and His invitation to us to trust Him -- even when He does not appear to be who we think Jesus is. Like the disciples, we expect Jesus to behave in a certain way and when He does not, we find ourselves in a space that offers the opportunity to build that trust in Jesus. There's no way to trust if there's no space to build it. Acts 2:42-47; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14.

Josh shared 3 quotes in today's message.

1) Dr. Cheryl Bridges Johns: "My movement talks about prayer. We are a praying people. But, we are inclined toward penitent prayer or the life of ongoing repentance. Lack of teaching on this subject has made us people who love to praise God, while at the same time, compromised by personal and corporate sin. I firmly believe 2020 should be our 'penitent year.' We don't need to get America to 'cry out to God.' We, the church, need to cry out in fervent, penitent prayer. Both we and our ancestors have sinned. There is a whole generation who have never experienced the heavy, convicting cloud of God's Presence. They've seen smoke machines and even danced before the Lord. But, they've never been overwhelmed by the Glory or trembled under the weight of the 'Holy hush.' The only way there is through the door marked 'penitence.' "

2) Shannon Michael Pater: "Tumultuous teens, in fact, know this space of faith in their very body and soul. No longer in the relative safety of childhood, but not yet in the supposed self-sufficiency of adulthood, adolescence is a space of liminality, that is, an in-between space. Door frames are liminal places: a space between rooms, a portal from outside to the inside. Teens need a companion who can be both midwife and chaplain, someone who will help them navigate the loss of infancy and facilitate a safe crossing to the terrain of adulthood. For the adolescent disciples, that will soon be the Holy Spirit. The Comforter will come to cure their diseased hearts and help them stand firm in the coming transformation."

3) Debie Thomas: " 'In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places,' Jesus tells his sorrowing disciples. Meaning: God is roomy. God is generous. God is hospitable. God can handle your doubts, your fears, and your questions. And God’s offer of belonging extends far beyond the confines of this mortal life. 'I go and prepare a place for you,' Jesus says as he stands in the shadow of his own cross. You have a place with me. You have a place with God. You have a place. A grim setting. Real questions. An offer of comfort. The promise of home. The Way. This is a Gospel for our time. The story — your story, my story, our collective story of this precarious, overwhelming moment — will not end in death. Though we might feel alone and frightened right now, the Way is open before us. We know it. We know Jesus, and because we know Jesus, we know God. The Way will safely bear us home. Do not let your hearts be troubled."

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