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.
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."
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/
Josh walks us through Isaiah 12 where we hear Isaiah giving thanks for the salvation of the Lord roughly 200 years before their captivity ended. Isaiah embodies hope for them. We know people who feel hopeless and empty, and they need to see the sustaining connection of intimacy that happens between a believer and Jesus. How can we bring people to the well of living water and share the hope we have? The worship journey for this week: "Salvation." Isaiah 12; Isaiah 10:20.
Jordan draws from a passage in the Book of Haggai about a time when the Israelites returned from exile and were setting about rebuilding the temple. Most of them had no recollection of the time of the first temple where the presence of the Lord dwelled. As Christians, we are God's temple, and we can draw on that reality to engage the world around us. Navigating through culture can seem shaky, but with the Holy Spirit's guidance, we can step boldly into the community and bring the peace and freedom that dwells in us. The worship journey for this week: "Rebuilding the church as unshaken people in a shaky world." Haggai 1:15-2:9; Mark 14:58; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; Revelation 21:22; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4.
Jordan shared a quote from Robert Mulholland Jr.: "The process of being formed in the image of Christ takes place primarily at the points of our unlikeness to Christ's image. God is present to us in the most destructive aspects of our cultural captivity. God is involved with us in the most imprisoning bondage of our brokenness."
In the story of Zacchaeus, Jesus says that He came to seek and save the lost. That word "lost" refers to one who is being destroyed or actively killed. Zacchaeus was wealthy, but he was also despised, because he was a tax collector. He was lost, and Jesus called him by name and invited Himself to Zacchaeus' house. Are you able to look at the ways you are lost? Are you willing to allow Jesus to come to your house, to show you where the false narratives have taken hold, and to reveal your true identity? The worship journey for this week: "Going from distant observer to faithful disciple of Christ." Luke 19:1-10; Matthew 11:19.
Josh looks at the parable of the Pharisee and tax collector from the Gospel of Luke. We see that each person in the parable had to step away from something false they were believing about their relationship with God. In our own lives, we have moments where we identify with the Pharisee and the tax collector. It is easy to fall into the trap of depending on what we have or what we are successful at. What would we depend on if those things were taken away? What is sustaining you right now? How is Jesus drawing you into a space where He can be your sustainer? Josh also shares some news about our new Worship Coordinator. The worship journey for this week: "Leaving false things behind." Luke 18:9-14; Psalm 51:1-8; Jeremiah 31:31-33.
Josh continues walking through 2 Timothy and calls us back to the simplicity of the gospel of Jesus. We are to be in the process of helping form the culture around us but only through what is happening in us. Our efforts to "be missional" will be limited if we're not open to Jesus working in us. Jesus speaks to us through the Bible which is more than a book. Can the Bible correct us? Can it rebuke us? Can we be encouraged by it? If we will continue in Christ, we won't run from correction or rebuke, and His encouragement will breathe life. The worship journey for this week: "Continue in Christ." 2 Timothy 1:6, 8, 2:1, 8, 3:14-4:5; Romans 15:4; Jeremiah 31:31-34.
Josh shared a quote from AJ Jacobs and Peter Holmes: "Studying the Bible is not like wrestling. It is more like wrestling itself. This opponent of mine is sometimes beautiful, sometimes cruel, sometimes ancient, sometimes crazily relevant. I can't get a handle on it. I'm outmatched. God's word does not return unto God void. The Bible does not need a disclaimer to say it is fiction. Rather, it needs a warning to those who would read it. It is so true that it will read you. Do not just read it alone. You are outmatched. As we read it, we discover all about how we are outmatched by the love and grace of God who has given us His word and given us His Son, that we might know life eternal here and now and forever more."
Josh looks at the story of Jesus healing ten lepers. One of them realizes he is healed, runs back to thank Jesus, and Jesus tells him, "Your faith has made you well." Rather than a challenge to "have more faith," what if Jesus is revealing that the way into faith starts with thankfulness? In the midst of our struggles with faith and doubt and our deconstruction, maybe returning to Jesus and being grateful for what He's done for us is a way back home. And when we can't remember, we can lean on the stories of what Jesus has done in the lives of others in the RCC family. The worship journey for this week: "Thankfulness and faith." Luke 17:11-19; 2 Timothy 2:8-15.
Looking at the mustard seed parable in Luke, Kara encourages us that Jesus wasn't calling out the disciples for a lack of faith. Rather, He was affirming that they already had what they needed. Jesus isn't concerned about the size of our faith. He wants us to follow Him. The miraculous work of the gospel that takes hold of our lives is all the faith we need for the hard things He will call us to. And when we're called to obedience -- because we know the character of the One asking something of us -- we can step into that challenging thing, because we have all the faith we need. The worship journey for this week: "It isn't the size of our faith, but the One we are putting our faith in." Luke 17:1-10; 2 Timothy 1:1-14.