Tina Lee shares a message about the initial steps in our apprenticeship to Jesus -- Awakening. She reminds us that God awakens, and we are the awakened. Whether our awakening experience is earth-shaking or a series of smaller moments, it serves as an invitation into discipleship or spiritual formation -- to step into the journey of apprenticeship that Jesus has for each of us. Ephesians 1:18; John 3:3-8; Acts 9:9-19; Philippians 3:7-10.
Josh continues our discussion about apprenticing to Jesus, looking at a passage from Luke 9, where Jesus interacts with different people who say they want to follow Him. Jesus' responses can seem harsh, but Jesus understands what the journey with Him involves. What it offers. It's worth more than all the other things we want to take care of before we do the spiritual part. But the journey is where the beauty is; where the life is. There are stages to our spiritual journeys: awakening, purgation, illumination, and union. Where are you on the journey? Where do you feel stuck?
Josh shares from the first four chapters of Joshua to help illustrate the journey of apprenticeship to Jesus that we are all walking. The Israelites could've crossed the Jordan in any number of ways, but they crossed the river as led by the Spirit. But they didn't stop there, because the story of the river was on the way to where God was leading them. The story of the Israelites provides a number of lessons for us as we practice our apprenticeship. They shared their journey; listened and obeyed the voice of God; had a shared testimony and treasured it; and they made preparations for the next steps of their journey. Joshua 1:1-9; Joshua 3; Joshua 4:1-14.
Josh shared a message based on the story from Joshua of the 12 stones out of the Jordan. The story serves as a visual of not only hearing testimony of what the Lord is speaking to us but also following through and actively engaging what God is leading us into. We have to create space to hear from God and follow His guidance. None of us can pull ourselves out of Egypt. The Spirit is leading us out into the things we need to be children of God. Jeremiah 17:7-8; Joshua 4:1-9; Exodus 13:21; Romans 8:9-17.
As we wrap up our walk through the Book of Ephesians, Josh shares about the "armor of God." These are verses many have heard before, but we may not connect with the armor imagery. What does armor have to do with a gospel message like "love your enemies?" The armor imagery, like Paul's use of "body" or "temple" imagery elsewhere, is a vehicle to explain a broader truth. The armor elements referenced are defensive weapons aside from perhaps the sword of the Spirit, but even that is for protection against attack -- not a tool to bash another. In the end, the armor helps us "stand firm" to engage in conversation with others and share the gospel of peace. Ephesians 6:10-24.
Josh shares from Ephesians 6 today about some verses that can be hard to hear -- whether you are a child or a parent. Paul is encouraging the Ephesian church that life in Christ is not like the context in which they live where power dictates the relationship. Parents like to correct their children -- especially when they don't listen and obey. Children have a hard time listening to their parents if all they hear is correction. Perhaps if parents erred on the side of encouragement versus correction, our children would hear the correction for what it is. This week, let's step into encouragement and listening. Ephesians 6:1-9.
Josh shared three quotes today:
1) N. T. Wright: "We shouldn't make the mistake of thinking that because some families get it horribly wrong it isn't possible to get it right, at least some of the time. Just because the Garden grows weeds we shouldn't pave it over with concrete. Just because there are oppressive families, there's no reason to dismiss family life altogether. On the contrary. The reason the family can become a place of fear and bondage is because it is designed as the place of love, security, affirmation and new energy. The worst is the corruption of the best. As with marriage, so with family life, and attitudes to work, both from employer and employee. Are we so sure that we in the modern world have got it right that we are in a position to turn around and tell Paul he's got it wrong?"
2) William Barclay: "Here's a letter dated from 1 BC from a man called Hilarion to his wife Alis. He has gone to Alexandria, and he writes home on domestic affairs: 'Heartiest greetings to you and to my dear Berous and Apollonarion. Know that we are still even now in Alexandria. Do not worry if when all others return I remain in Alexandria. I beg and beseech of you to take care of the little child, and, as soon as we receive wages, I will send them to you. If -- good luck to you! -- you bear offspring, if it is a male, let It live; if it is a female, expose it. You told Aphrodisias, "Do not forget me." How can I forget you? I beg you therefore not to worry.' "
3) William Barclay: "The 18th century artist Benjamin West tells how he became a painter. One day, his mother went out leaving him in charge of his little sister, Sally. In his mother's absence, he discovered some bottles of colored ink and began to paint Sally's portrait. In doing so, he made a considerable mess of things with ink blots everywhere. His mother came back. She saw the mess but said nothing. She picked up the piece of paper, saw the drawing and said, 'Why, it's Sally!' And she stooped and kissed him. Afterwards, Benjamin West always used to say 'my mother's kiss made me a painter.' Encouragement did more than rebuke could ever do. As Paul sees it, children must honor their parents, and the parents must never discourage their children."
On this Mother's Day, Josh continues our equipping the saints discussion looking at the end of Ephesians 5. We see in these verses the invitation to be Christ in our relationships. In the marriage relationship, we are invited to learn what it means to serve the other -- not to dominate the other. These verses are challenging to read in today's context and seem at odds with other writings of Paul that honor the leadership of women in the early church. We must see the arc of Scripture and what Christ is leading us to. Ephesians 5:21-33; Romans 16:1-2; Galatians 3:28; Genesis 3:16; Ephesians 5:8.
As we celebrate our 7th birthday as a church, we have many things for which to be thankful. Scripture is full of reminders of the Father's heart to bring us joy and to encourage us. We hear some testimonies from important people in the life of RCC and from our own family members. Luke 2:10; John 15:11; Luke 4:15-19; Galatians 5:22-23; Psalm 150.
Josh continues our ETS discussion today, looking at a passage from Ephesians 5. Paul is encouraging the church in Ephesus, in their call to be light in the world, to be wise -- to not be foolish. How does that apply to us today? What is foolishness now? Maybe it's the badge of busyness we wear. The world is driven by busyness. We are too busy. Are we being wise? Paul's call against "drunkenness" is against the things that intoxicate and inebriate us. When we are lost in our busyness, we do not have the time and space needed to foster depth of relationship with Jesus -- to live like we are filled with the Spirit. Worship redeems the time we think we don't have. It reorients us to what matters. Singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs together in community propels us to handle the good and bad that life throws at us. Ephesians 5:10-21; Proverbs 8:1-11.
Josh shared three quotes today:
1) From Richard F. Ward: "Spiritual formation describes an integrated religious life, with balance between contemplation and action, firmly rooted in God's vision for all humanity, and particularly for those who are 'in Christ.' To retrieve this deeper, richer set of meanings for this popular but potentially vacuous construct, the preacher is on the lookout for those biblical texts that will give spiritual formation depth, shape, and definition. You can find one here in this brief exhortation from Ephesians. For one to be 'spiritually formed' as a Christian believer, one is to be mature in one's faith and to be concerned about developing character as a human being. Claiming oneself to be 'formed' or 'mature' is the height of hubris, so we think of ourselves as being in a process of or on a journey toward maturity. Think of these few verses as but one signpost on that path that provides spiritual direction."
2) From Richard F. Ward: "The times are so urgent, so pregnant with possibilities for redemption and transformation, that the church cannot afford to miss its vocation. That is the key to the church acting wisely. When the church is acting contrary to its vocation, it is acting foolishly. ... When the church is out of touch with its vocation, it moves through these evil times as one who is intoxicated -- satiated and reeling, engaging in regrettable behaviors. If a quest for spiritual formation and maturity in the church displays a desire for balance and integration, drunkenness is the condition of being unfocused, off balance, and out of kilter with 'what God wants for you.'
"So how do we fill in the blank? 'The church's vocation is ______.' Imagine the church's vocation as a great series of interpretive images set in stained glass and put on display. Within that display, we see an image found in this little blip of a text from Ephesians. Here is the church 'filled with the Spirit.' And what does that look like? A group of folks like you and me, on the path toward formation and maturity, 'singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs' that rise out of grateful hearts."
3) From Dark Night of the Soul by Gerald May: "I must confess I am no longer good at telling the difference between good things and bad things. Of course, there are many events in human history that can only be labeled as evil, but from the standpoint of inner individual experience, the distinction has become blurred for me. Some things start out looking great but wind up terribly, while other things seem bad in the beginning but turn out to be blessings in disguise .... I also feel that the dark night of the soul reveals an even deeper divine activity: a continually gracious, loving, and fundamentally protective guidance through all human experience -- the good as well as the bad."
Dr. Cheryl Bridges Johns shares a message from Ephesians 5 as she takes us deeper into our "equipping the saints" journey. Paul's letter to the Church in Ephesus is a follow-up to his two years of ministry with this group of people. Paul is responding to a new church family that heard his message of the gospel of Christ but that is allowing the culture around them to creep back into their fellowship. Paul reminds them of the seal of the Spirit that marks them, and Paul is calling them to live distinctively as the people of the light and as members of the culture of Christ. Those calls remain for us as we navigate life in the various cultures into which we were born and find ourselves. Ephesians 5:1-10.