River City Church - Smyrna, GA
Groups Sunday: Overcoming Hindrances to Community

Groups Sunday: Overcoming Hindrances to Community

February 16, 2020

Today, Josh and Jessica shared about the variety of groups that are available for the spring groups season. Josh also applied the "apprenticeship to Jesus" discussion to our invitation to enter into a group this season. We see, in Jesus, someone who is living in community and not just focused on his individual ministry or the ideals He espouses, and He is not intimidated by the many who do not accept His invitation to follow Him or who adamantly oppose what He offers. In community, we have the opportunity to share mutual loves, to live generously, to honor and celebrate with those around us, and to be vulnerable about the obstacles in our lives. Psalm 68:6; Matthew 4:18-20. 

Josh shared a couple of quotes today: (1) "Face-to-face conversation is the most human -- and humanizing -- thing we do. Fully present to one another, we learn to listen. It’s where we develop the capacity for empathy. It’s where we experience the joy of being heard, of being understood." -- From Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle, Ph.D.

(2) "The sooner this shock of disillusionment (that it will be easy and people will be perfect) comes to an individual and into a community, the better for both. Every human wish or dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves the dream of community more than the community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter even though his intentions may be honest and sacrificial. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own laws and judges the brethren and God and himself accordingly." -- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Busyness and Sabbath

Busyness and Sabbath

February 9, 2020

Josh shares from Isaiah 58 to press into our need for Sabbath to combat the culture of busyness that infiltrates our lives. Busyness narrows our focus to "work" or "family." Busyness narrows our focus to "worship" or "mission." Busyness prevents us from pausing long enough to see the need to focus on work "and" family or worship "and" mission. Sabbath is a practice that invites us to create space to be with God regularly and long enough to see the "both/ands" in our lives -- to see, for example, how worshiping together and mission go hand in hand to form us into people that look like Jesus. Isaiah 58.

Josh shared a few quotes in his message as well:

(1) "Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life." -- Dallas Willard

(2) "How would our congregation respond to this call to worship? 'We hope you are not planning to go through the motions in worship today, singing the songs but never engaging your hearts, hearing the scripture but not listening for God, or giving an offering but not giving of yourselves, because if so, you are not doing God any favors. You do not get points for attendance today. If you really worship God, then you will share with the poor, listen to the lonely, and stop avoiding those in need.' The preacher who dares to preach as Isaiah preached will tell those who come to church that if they are not there to give themselves to God, then they should have stayed home.” -- Brett Younger

(3) "Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone's face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions." -- Henri Nouwen

Josh also shared Ten Symptoms of "Hurry Sickness" from John Mark Comer's new book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry:

1. Irritability—You get mad, frustrated, or just annoyed way too easily.

2. Hypersensitivity—All it takes is a minor comment to hurt your feelings, a grumpy email to set you off, or a little turn of events to throw you into an emotional funk and ruin your day.

3. Restlessness—When you actually do try to slow down and rest, you can’t relax.

4. Workaholism (or just non-stop activity)—You just don’t know when to stop. Or worse, you can’t stop.

5. Emotional numbness—You just don’t have the capacity to feel another’s pain.

6. Out-of-order priorities—You feel disconnected from your identity and calling.

7. Lack of care for your body—You don’t have time for the basics:

8. Escapist behaviors—When we’re too tired to do what’s actually life-giving for our souls, we each turn to our distraction of choice: overeating, overdrinking, binge-watching Netflix, browsing social media, surfing the web, looking at porn — name your preferred cultural narcotic.

9. Slippage of spiritual disciplines—If you’re anything like me, when you get overbusy, the things that are truly life-giving for your soul are the first to go rather than your first go to — such as a quiet time in the morning, Scripture, prayer, Sabbath, worship on Sunday, a meal with your community, and so on.

10. Isolation—You feel disconnected from God, others, and your own soul.

A Lifestyle of Repentance

A Lifestyle of Repentance

February 2, 2020

Josh shared a message that challenges us to embrace a lifestyle of repentance. It is easy for us to see the flaws in others -- to see how they need to change. As we continue our apprenticeship to Jesus, we have to practice true repentance which requires us to engage in self-examination and confession of our own sin and intentionally seek to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. The worship journey this week: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 2 Chronicles 7:14; Psalm 139:23-24; Psalm 32:1-2; Psalm 106:1-7; John 6:44; Romans 2:4; John 20:23; James 5:16; 1 John 1:9.

Josh shared a few quotes today:

1) Dr. Cheryl Bridges Johns: "My movement talks about prayer. We are a praying people. But, we aren't 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) Richard Foster: "The discipline of confession brings an end to pretense. God is calling us into being a Church that can openly confess its frail humanity and know the forgiving and empowering graces of Christ. Honesty leads to confession and confession leads to change. May God give grace to the Church once again to recover the discipline of confession."

3) Adele Ahlberg Calhoun from Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: "Self-examination is a process whereby the Holy Spirit opens my heart to what is true about me. This is not the same as a neurotic shame-inducing inventory. Instead, it's a way of opening myself to God within the safety of divine love, so I can authentically seek transformation. Confession embraces Christ's gift of forgiveness and restoration while setting us on the path to renewal and change."

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.