Who’s Sitting at the Table?

Earlier this year I took the opportunity to read The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. As Manning goes on and on about the tremendous love and grace of God, he pauses in one chapter to share a story about a friend who is uneasy about having dinner with Christ in heaven. She’s uneasy because she isn’t the one who will get to choose who’s sitting with her at the table.

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This story has challenged me to consider whether I have the same sense of uneasiness. I’ve challenged myself with questions such as:

  • Am I willing to sit and dine with those who look, act, think, work, and live very differently than myself?
  • If not, why not?
  • If so, why am I not taking more opportunities to dine with them now, on this side of heaven?
  • Am I to only build relationships with those who have similar interests as hobbies as myself?
  • In what ways can I be more intentional to build relationships with those who do look, act, think, work, and live differently than myself?

Ouch. These questions are difficult, even painful to think about. It feels like Jesus Himself is standing with me whispering, “You’re invited. Come and dine.”

“But Jesus, who will be sitting with me?”

“It doesn’t matter. I have a seat reserved just for you.”

“But…Jesus…”

“Come and dine.”

You see, Jesus spent years of His life and ministry being with those who looked, acted, thought, worked, and lived very differently than He did. He dined with sinners and tax collectors. He showed a prostitute that she was loved by God more deeply than she knew. He told stories of how His own people (the Jews) walked on the other side of the road from somebody who was beaten and left for dead, and how a Samaritan – a people group loathed and hated by the Jews – gave aid to the man in need. He took a rag-tag group of twelve men and revealed to them that they were created by God for a magnificent purpose. One that would forever change the trajectory of their lives. He then invited you and I to follow in His footsteps. To come and dine with Him, not being concerned or afraid about who else may be at the table.

All in all, Christ’s words and actions should stir a reckoning deep within us. We should be confronted by our own thoughts, fears, and feelings. We should be asking ourselves how much it really matters who else is sitting at the table, and simply rest in knowing that He is sitting at the head. And maybe, just maybe, we should each be considering who we can have join us at the table here and now.

Each and every day, we’re being transformed into the image of Christ. May our prayer continue to be one of being transformed into His image and not asking Him to be transformed to ours.

As David prayed,

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Psalm 139:23-24

Amen.

What’s Coming Up at SRC?

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Those who have been joining us each weekend at SRC know we’ve been focused on a series titled Do Not Be Afraid, which is based on the book Letting Go of Fear by Neil T. Anderson and Rich Miller. We’ll be continuing this series over the next few weeks, but then we’ll be engaging in a couple of series’ I’m really excited about.

Beginning Sunday, July 26 we’ll begin a series titled, “I Wish Someone Had Told Me…” The idea behind the series is to take a look into some difficult life lessons learned the hard way. Honestly, it was difficult to narrow down a list of topics for this series, as I’m sure we’ve all learned some life lessons the hard way. The topics we’re likely to cover include:

I wish someone had told me…

  • How harmful judgmental thoughts can be.
  • What forgiveness is, what it isn’t, and how to practice it.
  • How much envy impacts our lives.
  • How much shame impacts our lives.
  • Not all anger is bad or sinful.
  • How to grieve.
  • What it means to live in the Kingdom of God.

Then this Fall, we’ll be launching a series titled The Good & Beautiful God which is based on a book by James Bryan Smith. Our hope is that all of our Community Groups will join us for a more in-depth study on this book which focuses on the nature and character of God.

The book description notes, “God wants me to try harder.””God blesses me when I’m good and punishes me when I’m bad.””God is angry with me.”We all have ideas that we tell ourselves about God and how he works in our lives. Some are true–but many are false. James Bryan Smith believes those thoughts determine not only who we are, but how we live. In fact, Smith declares, the most important thing about a person is what they think about God. The path to spiritual transformation begins here. Turning to the Gospels, Smith invites you to put your ideas to the test to see if they match up with what Jesus himself reveals about God. Once you’ve discovered the truth in Scripture, Smith leads you through a process of spiritual formation that includes specific activities aimed at making these new narratives real in your body and soul as well as your mind. At the end of each chapter you’ll find an opportunity for soul training, engaging in spiritual practices that reinforce the biblical messages on your mind and heart. Because the best way to make a complete and lasting change is to go through the material in community, small group discussion questions also accompany each chapter. This deep, loving and transformative book will help you discover the narratives that Jesus lived by–to know the Lord he knew and the kingdom he proclaimed–and to practice spiritual exercises that will help you grow in the knowledge of our good and beautiful God.

Currently, Community Groups are set to launch Sunday, September 13. If you’re not currently in a Group but would like to look into the possibility of joining or leading one, feel free to let us know by clicking here.

Summer Reading: 2020 (Part 1)

Those who know me well know that I read (or listen to audiobooks) a lot. This year I set a goal of reading through an average of one book a week (52 for the year) and I’m currently four books ahead of schedule.

With COVID-19 hindering many people’s travel plans, I thought I would recommend a few good reads you may enjoy. The links provided here are for the Amazon Kindle edition of the book, but many of these are available at your local library. For those who may not know, you can borrow digital / kindle books directly from the library and return them after 14-21 days. It’s a free service, and well worth utilizing.

If you have any other book recommendations, feel free to leave a comment below. Be blessed all!

Christian Non-fiction:

The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning:

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The Ragamuffin Gospel was originally published in 2009, but is a book that will continue to go down in history as a classic. Manning repeatedly focuses on the wonders of God’s grace. As I read through it (and am reading through it again), I find myself regularly stopping to absorb the weight of his words. A powerful book worthy of the accolades it has received over the past 30 years.

In the Name of Jesus : Reflections on Christian Leadership by Henri Nouwen

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Henri Nouwen was a Catholic Priest who penned a ridiculous number of books throughout his ministry. While having opportunities to teach at Notre Dame and Harvard, he ended his career caring for those with severe intellectual and physical disabilities at L’Arche institute in Ontario.

In the Name of Jesus is a fairly quick read, but is another that will provide a plethora of insights worthy of chewing on for days, or even weeks at a time.

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.

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Corrie Ten Boom, her sister Betsy, and their father sheltered Jewish refugees during WWII and were late captured by the Nazis and forced to labor in Ravensbrück concentration camp. Corrie’s real life story will inspire you to think about those who persecute you in new ways. Know going in that you may need to keep a few tissues nearby, but it’s well worth the time to engage with her story.

The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby

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Growing up in a community with less diversity, I didn’t (and probably still don’t) fully understand and appreciate the ongoing conversations about racial inequality and bias. The Color of Compromise is one of a dozen or more books I’ve read over the past year in an effort to understand the need for the conversation and to educate myself as to how to better engage in the discussion. Admittedly, you may find parts of this read unsettling. You may even wonder why our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents generations allowed certain things to happen. But a hundred years from now, there’s a good chance our great grandchildren will be wondering some of the same things about the decisions we make today. Hopefully they won’t still be asking questions about why we allowed any form of racial inequality or bias to continue.

Young Adult / Fiction:

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

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Yes, this is yet another old classic that was originally published in 1961. I believe I first read this one in 8th grade as required reading, but during the COVID-19 stay-at-home-order I was looking for something light and easy to read. Where the Red Fern Grows fit the bill nicely. If you’ve never read it, or even if you have, consider giving it another go.

Fiction:

The Guardians by John Grisham.

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Generally speaking, I’m not a huge Grisham fan. But The Guardians has been highly reviewed, and for good reason. While the story itself is fictional, it is based on real life stories of racial injustice that continue to be part of our culture. All in all, it was an excellent portrayal of inequality and one man’s mission to have a wrongful conviction overturned.

Feeding Your Heart, Mind, and Soul

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic many of us are stuck inside. As such, we may be tempted to waste our time with boredom, numbing, or even escaping the realities of our current circumstances.

Below are some brief ideas on how you may use this time in a more encouraging manner — renewing your mind, heart, and soul. Also included are some reading suggestions (from Pastor Justin) for those who want to read something other than the national news media.

Suggestions for Feeding Your Heart, Mind, and Soul: 

  1. Memorize Psalm 23 and/or read through it several times a day.
  2. Write out all the things you’re grateful about. Keep your list growing for days until you reach at least 100.
  3. Place a “Jesus Jar” on the shelf. When something enters your mind that you have no control over, write it on a card and put it in the Jesus Jar to remind yourself that He is in control.
  4. Read a good devotional each morning and evening. 
  5. Utilize the Romans Devotional for this message series.
  6. Read Scripture during free time. Start with the Gospels, Psalms, Proverbs, or other books in the New Testament.
  7. Spend a full two hours with God. 
  8. Find ways to play, smile, and laugh. (Play a table game with the family. Take pictures and create a video. Plan a dream vacation. Just find something to do that is much more life-giving than life-draining.) 
  9. Schedule a media fast for an entire day (or week). 
  10. Commit an entire day (or longer) to not gossiping. Gossip is speaking negatively about someone who is not present – whether in person, on the phone, text, or on social media. (This may include family, neighbors, politicians, journalists, or anybody else.)
  11. Pray for somebody you’re struggling to forgive, or whom you may be experiencing bitterness or resentment. 
  12. Write a card of encouragement for a family member, friend, pastor, colleague, neighbor, or other. 
  13. Practice a full day of Sabbath rest in a godly way. (What is it that truly brings you rest?)
  14. Spend 10 minutes a day being still, knowing God is God.
  15. Have video calls with family and friends. Zoom.us is a free service that anybody with a laptop, cell phone, or tablet can use for free video calls.

 

Encouraging questions you can ask others you may check-in with: 

  1. How are you currently holding up emotionally? Can you pinpoint exactly what you’re feeling? 
  2. What are some things you’re doing to listen to God each day? What are you learning or discovering about Him? 
  3. What are some things you’re learning about yourself at this time? 
  4. How has God uniquely suited you to be a light to yourself, your family, your neighbors, and others at this time? 
  5. Do you have any doubts or fears we can discuss and pray about? 

 

Book Recommendations (by Genre):

Christian Non-Fiction: 

  1. Victory over the Darkness by Neil T. Anderson (What does it mean to find your identity in Christ?)
  2. The Good & Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith (Is God good only some of the time? Does he love you more when you’re ‘good’ and less when you’re not?)
  3. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero (You cannot grow spiritually without growing emotionally, and vice-versa.)
  4. Everybody Always by Bob Goff (What would it look like to love everybody, always?)
  5. It’s Not Supposed to be This Way by Lysa TerKeurst (Finding unexpected strengths when disappointments leave you shattered.)

Other Non-Fiction: 

  1. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (Injustices in the legal system.)
  2. Skeletons on the Zahara by Dean King (A True survival story of a shipwreck in the 1800’s.)
  3. Educated by Tara Westover (Memoir of growing up uneducated and completely off the grid.)

Fiction / Fantasy:

  1. Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson (This is fantasy writing, much like Chronicles of Narnia or Lord of the Rings. As such, it isn’t for everybody. I would give it a PG-13 rating for violence and language.)
  2. And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman (A short novella about the challenges of an aging parent or grandparent. Be warned, you may very well tear-up if you listen or read this one.)
  3. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (My personal favorite WWII fiction novel.)

If you’re looking for other reading suggestions, feel free to comment and let me know. I read a lot and could have posted many more suggestions!

 

F260 Week 18: Day 5

For those who have been joining us with the F260 Reading Plan, feel free to continue to read along this week. SRC’s next regular Devotional & Scripture Reading Guide will begin January 7, 2019. Stay tuned!

F260 READING: (A Scripture Reading Plan for Busy Believers)

Read: 2 Samuel 11 & 12

Reflect: What did you H.E.A.R. from God today? HEAR Bible Study Method

 

 

Click here if you would like to provide feedback to help us make the daily devotional and scripture reading guide even better.

F260 Week 17: Day 4

For those who have been joining us with the F260 Reading Plan, feel free to continue to read along this week. SRC’s next regular Devotional & Scripture Reading Guide will begin January 7, 2019. Stay tuned!

F260 READING: (A Scripture Reading Plan for Busy Believers)

Read: Psalm 18, 2 Samuel 9

Reflect: What did you H.E.A.R. from God today? HEAR Bible Study Method

 

 

Click here if you would like to provide feedback to help us make the daily devotional and scripture reading guide even better.

F260 Week 17: Day 3

For those who have been joining us with the F260 Reading Plan, feel free to continue to read along this week. SRC’s next regular Devotional & Scripture Reading Guide will begin January 7, 2019. Stay tuned!

F260 READING: (A Scripture Reading Plan for Busy Believers)

Read: 2 Samuel 6 & 7

Reflect: What did you H.E.A.R. from God today? HEAR Bible Study Method

 

 

Click here if you would like to provide feedback to help us make the daily devotional and scripture reading guide even better.

F260 Week 17: Day 2

For those who have been joining us with the F260 Reading Plan, feel free to continue to read along this week. SRC’s next regular Devotional & Scripture Reading Guide will begin January 7, 2019. Stay tuned!

F260 READING: (A Scripture Reading Plan for Busy Believers)

Read: 2 Samuel 3:1 & 5:1-25

Reflect: What did you H.E.A.R. from God today? HEAR Bible Study Method

 

 

Click here if you would like to provide feedback to help us make the daily devotional and scripture reading guide even better.

F260 Week 17: Day 1

For those who have been joining us with the F260 Reading Plan, feel free to continue to read along this week. SRC’s next regular Devotional & Scripture Reading Guide will begin January 7, 2019. Stay tuned!

F260 READING: (A Scripture Reading Plan for Busy Believers)

Read: 2 Samuel 1 & 2:1-7

Reflect: What did you H.E.A.R. from God today? HEAR Bible Study Method

 

 

Click here if you would like to provide feedback to help us make the daily devotional and scripture reading guide even better.

Two Upcoming Opportunities for Couples @ SRC!

Real Marriage Web Logo

If you were to ask somebody you know, “What’s the one thing you’d like to see improved upon in your business, or friendships, or marriage, or __________?” there’s one answer you’re going to hear more than any other.

Communication.

“In my line of work, I’d like there to be more open communication with my superiors.”

“My friends and I are so busy we hardly have time to just sit and talk anymore.”

“In my marriage, I feel like my wife and I sometimes miss what each other is trying to say.”

Well, we have — not one, but two — opportunities for married/engaged couples to learn some new tools to grow in healthy communication skills.

Opportunity #1: Emotionally Healthy Skills 2.0

Skills 2.0 is an 8-Week Study designed to provide people with various tools that will help them grow in their Spiritual and Emotional health. The study is both video and discussion based, and each participant will receive a workbook to participate in the study.

 

What Skills Does the Study Focus On?

There are 8 Different Skills focused on throughout the study. These include:

  • September 24: Introduction and Community Temperature Reading
  • October 1: Stop Mind Reading and Clarify Expectations
  • October 8: Genogram Your Family
  • October 15: Explore the Iceberg
  • October 22: Incarnational Listening
  • October 29: Climb the Ladder of Integrity
  • November 5: Clean Fighting
  • November 12: Develop a Rule of Life to Implement Emotionally Healthy Skills

The study will take place at South Ridge Church during the dates listed above, from 1:00pm to 2:30pm. There is no fee to participate in the study.

If you would like to learn more about the study, please contact me (Pastor Justin) at the SRC Church Office. Or you may click here to register for the study.

Opportunity #2: Fight For Your Us (Marriage Conference)

Fight for Your Us (Social Media)On October 20 & 21, Brad & Kate Aldrich (authors of OneFleshMarriage.com) will be joining us to discuss specific tools for communication and clean fighting.

The conference will take place:

October 20: 6:30-8:30pm

October 21: 9:00am – 1:00pm

The cost for the event is $35, which includes all materials needed as well as lunch on Saturday. Feel free to contact me (Pastor Justin) in the SRC Office for additional details, or you may click here to register.