River City Church - Smyrna, GA
Month of Prayer: Being with Jesus in the World

Month of Prayer: Being with Jesus in the World

January 26, 2020

In today's message, Jordan illustrates that the tension between lives of faith and the world we live in is not a new tension. The Israelites faced the difficulty of living their faith as they discovered new technology and when they were in exile in Babylon. Rather than silo ourselves off in safe faith spaces, the challenge lies in navigating the opportunities to invite Jesus into our lives in the world. The worship journey this week: "Be with Jesus; be with the world." Genesis 11:1-9; Jeremiah 29:4-14; John 16:33. 

Jordan shared a couple of quotes during his message: "How much of our modern life can be summarized in that arresting dictum of the poet Thoreau, ‘Improved means to an unimproved end’? … We have allowed our technology to outdistance our theology and for this reason, we find ourselves caught up with many problems." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

"We try to keep [our young disciples] insulated. We helicopter-parent them. We imagine that safety and security are kingdom values. We want them to change the world around them, but only at a reasonable distance. We like the idea of counter-cultural mission, but in practice, here in exile, it’s kind of terrifying. Living faithfully in Jerusalem, when everything is neat and predictable, is a different animal from faithfulness in Babylon. Too many of our ministry efforts prepare people for a world that doesn’t exist, undercutting our witness and passing flimsy faith to the next generation. Because, honestly, we are scared." -- From Faith for Exiles by David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock

Month of Prayer: Orientation before Intercession

Month of Prayer: Orientation before Intercession

January 19, 2020

Josh continues to walk us through the month of prayer looking at the example Jesus gave to the disciples in Luke 11 when they asked Him to teach them to pray. They witnessed all that He was doing and deduced that His prayer life was key. We often view prayer as petitionary or intercessory. Jesus' example illustrates the importance of orienting ourselves in relationship with God, the Father. The worship journey for this week: "Prayer orients us to the Kingdom." Luke 11:1-13; Matthew 11:28-30. 

Josh shared a quote from Dallas Willard: "God's 'response' to our prayers is not a charade. He does not pretend that He is answering our prayer when He is only doing what He was going to do anyway. Our requests really do make a difference in what God does or does not do. The idea that everything would happen exactly as it does regardless of whether we pray or not is a specter that haunts the minds of many who sincerely profess belief in God. It makes prayer psychologically impossible, replacing it with dead ritual at best. And of course, God does not respond to this. You wouldn't either."  

Month of Prayer: Listening Prayer

Month of Prayer: Listening Prayer

January 12, 2020

As we move into this month of prayer, Josh shares about one of his favorite prayer practices: listening prayer. We need to hear the voice of God, and that starts with being with Jesus. If we're honest, we battle the critical and condemning voices in our head, and prayer offers the chance to commune with Jesus for God's voice to speak to our spirit. God's voice doesn't sound like our critical voice, because God's voice is action. It creates, begins things, shakes created things, is gentle, names, identifies, encourages, loves, and tells us who Jesus is. The worship journey for this week: "Which voices do we listen to?" Psalm 29; Jeremiah 23:29; Matthew 3:13-17; 1 Kings 19:12; 1 Corinthians 2:9-16. 

Josh mentioned a website from John Mark Comer that may be helpful as we journey deeper into prayer this month: practicingtheway.org/.

The Now and Not Yet

The Now and Not Yet

December 29, 2019

We find ourselves in the midst of Christmastide in the Christian calendar -- a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus for 12 days. Yet once we finish unwrapping our Christmas presents, it's easy to slip back into the darkness of Advent. Looking at a passage from Isaiah, Kara encourages us to hold these tensions together. We may not feel the excitement or hope that the birth of Jesus declares. Our feelings may be fueled by the struggles of our lives and the world around us, but that doesn't change the truth of Christ. The truth that He is with us. He has never left us. So, even when our prayers are not answered in the way we desire or expect, we can still declare the truth that God is who He says He is. 

Christmas Eve Message

Christmas Eve Message

December 24, 2019

Josh shares from Isaiah 9 and Luke 2 and reminds us that the light of Jesus is coming. Jesus comes in the form of a baby, inviting us to take care of Him -- to walk with Him. Israel waited 740 years from Isaiah's prophecy for this child to be born, and there were another 33 years before He conquered death. That promise of hope and peace found in Jesus' presence is still available for us. Isaiah 9:2-7; Luke 2:1-20. 

The Birth of Ambiguous Hope

The Birth of Ambiguous Hope

December 22, 2019

Jordan walks us through the story of the angel of the Lord visiting Joseph in a dream. We often consider the story of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus as a snapshot of the manger scene, but there are so many contexts at play in their story. Joseph and Mary were in the midst of turmoil via Roman oppression and a religious structure that wasn't welcoming to their situation. When the angel speaks to Joseph, he doesn't offer rescue from their plight. Instead, the hope they are given is in the person of this baby who will save the people from their sins. The ambiguity or uncertainty of what that will look like can be challenging to grasp. And the hope we have is in the presence of Jesus -- Emmanuel -- sitting with us in our pain, addiction, abuse, financial difficulties, infertility, etc. The worship journey this week: "The birth of ambiguous hope for a better tomorrow." Matthew 1:18-25. 

Jordan shared a quote from Don E. Saliers: "The hope for the coming of a child of destiny is certainly still alive in secular society. In complicated times -- politically, socially, economically -- the yearning for some sign of promise and hope in the form of a new leader is still very much with us .... Such a sign [of a coming child] focuses the contrast between the forces ranged against the good, and the hope for a salvation from all that is violent and destructive. Awareness of the gap between the world's actuality and God's ought-to-be of the world kindles the prophetic spirit in every age."

Is Jesus real?

Is Jesus real?

December 15, 2019

In Matthew 11, we encounter John the Baptist again through his disciples asking Jesus if He is the Messiah. John the Baptist was a prophet called to "prepare the way." But John had his own idea of what that way would look like and sitting in prison wasn't exactly how he thought that would turn out. When Jesus does things differently than we would, we can get offended. We don't know what Jesus will do. We say, "Jesus, you need to do more." But Jesus is at work in ways we don't expect or see. And we are left with John's question, "do I want this version of Jesus -- this Jesus who does things differently than I want or expect?" The worship journey for this week: "Is Jesus real?" Matthew 11:2-13; Matthew 3:11; John 1:29; John 3:30.  

Prepare the Way

Prepare the Way

December 8, 2019

When we read the story of John the Baptist preaching "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand," we can hear anger or a list of things that are wrong with us. Josh reminds us that our identity is not tied to what we've done, are doing, or will do. The call to repent is an invitation to reorient our lives to prepare the way for Jesus to walk out of the woods and impart life that conquers death, identity, new beginnings, and a heart for those around us living in their brokenness. This week's worship journey: "prepare the way." Matthew 3:1-12. 

Awake to God

Awake to God

December 1, 2019

Josh looks at passages in Isaiah 2 and Matthew 24 that point to times in the future, but they also are pointing to the present and inviting us to take part in what Jesus is working towards fulfillment. At the start of the Advent season, we are encouraged to "stay awake" to what Jesus is calling us to. He is not trying to scare us into right-living or making a one-time decision that protects us individually. To "stay awake" looks like putting on Christ, saying "yes" to Jesus, remaining present in what's really happening around us, understanding that true intimacy comes from our identity in Christ, and following the example of Christ in our encounters with power and the powerless. The worship journey for this week: "Awake to God." Isaiah 2:1-5; Matthew 24:36-44; Romans 13:11-14.  

Josh shared a prayer from the Daily Lectio app: "Unexpected God -- Your advent alarms us. Wake us from drowsy worship, from the sleep that neglects love, and the sedative of misdirected frenzy. Awaken us now to Your coming, and bend our angers into Your peace. Amen."

100% Grace and 100% Truth

100% Grace and 100% Truth

November 24, 2019

David Scott, the pastor of Highlands Church, our network's newest church plant, shared the vision and values of their church family. To illustrate the heart of Highlands Church, David walks us through the story in John 8 about Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. There, we see Jesus avoiding the trap the scribes and Pharisees were attempting to set and engaging the situation and this woman with 100% grace and 100% truth. John 8:2-11; Deuteronomy 22:22-24; John 1:17; 1 John 1:8-9; James 1:19. 

For more information about Highlands Church, visit their website: https://www.highlandsmarietta.org/