River City Church - Smyrna, GA
Advent Week 3 - Who Are You?

Advent Week 3 - Who Are You?

December 13, 2020

As we celebrate the third week of Advent, focusing on the theme of joy, Josh looks at John the Baptist again but from the perspective of the Gospel of John (different "John" by the way). While John is in the wild baptizing people, the Pharisees send some men to ask him, "Who are you?" And John has to look inward before he looks outward. He could choose to open with how he's the witness described by Isaiah to prepare the way -- to push himself into the forefront. But he doesn't. His first response is one of humility. He tells them that he is not the Christ. He has a purpose -- like we all do -- but it's not to be Christ. He points them to the light. Whatever else we do, our first and primary responsibility is to point others to that same light. Psalm 126; John 1:6-8, 19-28. 

Before his message, Josh also shared some important announcements related to our church staff.

At the end of the message, Josh asked us to consider three questions this week: 

1) How has the Father used this season to enrich and shape you?

2) In what ways can you share your story? How can you testify about His goodness? 

3) Whilst in a season of waiting, how can you celebrate Him right now?  

Advent Week 2 - Comfort Is Coming

Advent Week 2 - Comfort Is Coming

December 6, 2020

As we celebrate the second week of Advent, focusing on the theme of peace, Josh shares from Mark 1 and Isaiah 40 -- both of which discuss "preparing the way of the Lord." What does that look like? Mountains brought low. Valleys lifted up. Uneven ground becomes level. A people in the wilderness reminded that the presence of the Lord is coming. Hope is coming. Peace is coming. Joy is coming. Love is coming. Comfort is coming. John the Baptist prepares the way of Jesus, calling people to confession and repentance. That is how we, in our pride, are brought low to be lifted up by and through the grace of God. Mark 1:1-8; Isaiah 40:1-11. 

Josh shared a quote from Debi Thomas this week: "To locate ourselves at the outskirts of our own power is to acknowledge our vulnerability in the starkest terms. In the wilderness, we have no choice but to wait and watch as if our lives depend on God showing up. Because they do. And it's into such an environment -- an environment so far removed from power as to make power laughable -- that the word of God comes."

https://www.journeywithjesus.net/essays/2838-comfort-my-people

 

Advent Week 1 - Hope and Waiting

Advent Week 1 - Hope and Waiting

November 29, 2020

Josh shares a message from Isaiah 64 for the first week of Advent -- the week whose theme is hope. Isaiah is crying out to God and is tired of waiting. Where are you, God? We need you! Do the things you did before. But God is doing a deeper work in Isaiah and the people of Israel. Many of us today feel like Isaiah did then. And the good news is that the waiting we're experiencing isn't empty waiting. The Advent season helps remind us that something is coming. We expectantly wait for the new things God wants to do in and through Christ in us. Isaiah 64:1-9.

Josh shared two quotes from Patricia de Kong today: 

1) Her comment on Bonhoeffer: "What Bonhoeffer discovered was that the hiddenness of God is not a cloak of humility temporarily covering an awesome, powerful glory (a kind of Clark Kent/Superman act), but rather is a reflection of the divine character, a divine determination to relate to the world through the vulnerable path of non-coercive love and suffering service rather than through domination and force. God's refusal to replicate a Red Sea-type deliverance does not mean that God has abandoned Israel (or the church). 

"Our hope does not rely on God's acting today in the same ways God acted in the ancient stories, but it does rely on God's being the same God yesterday, today, and tomorrow -- a God who hears our cries, a God who does not abandon us, a God who will finally redeem all that is lost in a new heaven and new earth (Isaiah 65:17). The tradition of biblical lament does not invoke the past as nostalgia, nor does it dismiss the present in despair; rather, it draws on the collective memories of God's people as a source of hope for the future."  

2) "I recall a comment that our country has changed over the past years from one that wanted to be good to one that wants to feel good. We see some of this desire every Christmas season as people run from store to store and shopping mall to shopping mall, searching for the things that will bring them and their families some sort of fulfillment and happiness. Peace, the kind of peace that the world is hungering for, will not come from trying to fill ourselves up with material things. We try to stem our hurt and pride by running away from pain and caring only about what is ours. We cannot create peace through selfishness, but by opening ourselves to hope. Hope is what is left when your worst fears have been realized and you are no longer optimistic about the future. Hope is what comes with a broken heart willing to be mended."  

The song that Josh shared at the end of service was "Voice of God" by Dante Bowe. You can see the video of that song here: https://youtu.be/hP5u4BUcq_U

POTS: Creativity - Creator Spirit

POTS: Creativity - Creator Spirit

November 22, 2020

Dr. Cheryl Bridges Johns looks at Exodus 35 and shares a message about the Creator Spirit ("Veni Creator Spiritus"). During this Covid season, the church has had to be creative. The Creator Spirit that inspired the many hands to fashion and craft the tabernacle in the time of Moses -- a portable and tangible place of habitation for the presence of God -- continues to inspire us to create beauty out of chaos through the variety of work we do. We have an opportunity to call on that Creator Spirit to provide wisdom to participate in those new creations using the skills we've been blessed with. Exodus 35:30-35.

Dr. Johns shared a song by Graham Kendrick called "Creator Spirit (Veni Creator Spiritus)" at the end of service. Here is a link to that lyric video: https://youtu.be/l2VWG0n26K0

You can find sheet music, a lead sheet and a chord chart for that song at Graham Kendrick's website: https://grahamkendrick.co.uk/songs/graham-kendrick-songs/other-recordings-new-songs/creator-spirit

Dr. Johns' most recent book can be found here: https://amzn.to/3pRLviN 

St. Patrick and the Celtic Way

St. Patrick and the Celtic Way

November 15, 2020

Josh shares a message from Jeremiah 29 (not just the verse everyone knows) and Hebrews 12, inviting us to reexamine how we practice our faith. We've been given a rich history from which to draw but often settle for bumping into Jesus when we can. The life of St. Patrick and the Christian community he was a part of illustrates a different way to walk out what the writer of Hebrews describes for us as children of God. Jeremiah 29:1-14; Hebrews 12:1-17. 

POTS: Community, Belonging and Connectedness (Pt. 3)

POTS: Community, Belonging and Connectedness (Pt. 3)

November 8, 2020

Kara shares her heart for community looking at a passage from Mark 2. There, a paralytic man's friends lower him through a roof to receive healing from Jesus. The man's faith was strengthened and his life transformed through the faith of his friends, and it offers us a glimpse of what it means to live in community with our friends and neighbors. Choosing to be rooted in community is the way towards a deeply formed spiritual life. Mark 2:1-12; Acts 2:42-47. 

POTS: Community, Belonging and Connectedness (Pt. 2)

POTS: Community, Belonging and Connectedness (Pt. 2)

October 25, 2020

Josh continues our discussion of the prayers of the season (POTS) asking the question, "What does Jesus say that community looks like?" Using a passage from Matthew where Jesus is talking about unclean spirits in a house and then in front of his mother and brother, refers to the disciples as his mother and his brothers, we get a glimpse of what Jesus wants to do in our lives and how his view of us invites us into a community that, among other things, eats together, shares responsibility, holds each other accountable, and is faithful to each other until death. Matthew 12:43-50; Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14; John 14:26; Mark 11:17; 1 Corinthians 10:17.

POTS: Community, Belonging and Connectedness

POTS: Community, Belonging and Connectedness

October 18, 2020

Josh continues our discussion of the prayers of the season (POTS), bridging between "Clear Paths for Formation and Discipleship" and "Community, Belonging and Connectedness." We live in a culture that touts individualism, and it is easy to succumb to that in our daily lives. That pursuit leaves many Americans as some of the loneliest people in the world. Jesus calls us to Christian community which provides a path to a collectivist mindset that prioritizes the group over one's individual interests. 1 Corinthians 10:1-17; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10.

Josh provided a quote from Lucy Shaw: "The pace of life and our preoccupation with unimportant things take so much of our attention. The significant things, like taking time to develop friendship, to read and pray, to listen to God -- these all get sacrificed on the altar of good works and Christian busyness."

POTS: Clear Paths for Formation and Discipleship (Pt. 2)

POTS: Clear Paths for Formation and Discipleship (Pt. 2)

October 11, 2020

Josh continues looking at our prayer of the season related to spiritual formation and asks: "Where does spiritual formation happen?" We see in the life of Jesus and his disciples a rhythm of Jesus getting away in silence and solitude and living in community repeatedly. Jesus invites us on a journey, asking us to share our desires with him and to tell him what we want him to do for us like blind Bartimaeus. But spiritual formation is more than that one-on-one relationship with Jesus. Spiritual formation encompasses at least three things: community, vulnerability and accountability. Psalm 23; Mark 10:49-52; Matthew 4:18-22; 1 Corinthians 10:17. 

POTS: Clear Paths for Formation and Discipleship

POTS: Clear Paths for Formation and Discipleship

October 4, 2020

Josh opens our series of messages related to our most recent Prayers of the Season (POTS). Spiritual formation offers an opportunity to discover how Jesus wants to interact with us. We are invited to keep company with Jesus. We aren't invited to follow a list of steps to arrive at formation. We journey. The point is the journey -- not the destination. By sharing our deepest desires with Jesus, he can reveal how he wants to walk with us through that, what he wants to show us about ourselves, and where he wants to take us. Matthew 4:18-22; Matthew 11:28-30; Philippians 3:4-14. 

Josh shared an acrostic from Adele Ahlberg Calhoun to help us step into spiritual formation. What desire grabs your heart when you read these things? 

"WORSHIP"

Worship God

Open myself to God

Relinquish the false self & idols of the heart

Share my life with others

Hear the word of God

Incarnate Christ's love for the world

Pray to God

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