Practical Tips for Cultivating ONEness

By Matt Dawson


You know what I don’t like?  I don’t like when people give advice that doesn’t have any practical application.  It’s short bumper sticker slogans like “I’m an Ameri-can, not an Ameri-Can’t”, or “Don’t be Eye Candy, be Soul Food”, or one of my favorites, “small changes make a big difference.”

It’s not that these inspirational one-liners can’t lift your spirits, but when a marriage relationship needs a tune up or a straight up overhaul – we need something a bit more practical.

I’d like to suggest 3 Practical things that EVERY MARRIAGE needs to work on, and keep working on “until death do you part” to foster ONENESS in our marriages.

1. Communication

This is the #1 issue in most marriages.  Too many emotions, thoughts, and intentions are “lost in translation” when a husband and wife don’t continue to work on HOW they communicate with each other.

Notice, I didn’t say WHAT you communicate – no, it’s HOW you communicate that really fosters ONENESS in your home. What you communicate will constantly change based on your life circumstance.  What my wife and I talk about today is DRASTICALLY different than 15 years ago, before we had children.

How we communicate is a practice each couple must master in order to properly balance what you are saying to your spouse, and what they are hearing!  So here are 2 practical tips.1.

1. NEVER TEXT important conversations.9 0% of what we communicate is non-verbal (body language, tone, eye contact) and EMOJIS simply cannot match the complexity of our range of emotions.

2. Know The EMOTIONAL language of your spouse. Facts are not nearly as important as the emotional language that each one of you speaks.  One might be an emotional SPEWER, or one might be an emotional STEWER.  Your LOVE LANGUAGE (read the book) also plays a high role in the way you emotionally communicate. Someone with a love language of “words of affirmation” will not understand or respond well to one who is speaking with an “acts of service” love language.

No matter what – NEVER stop working on your communication skills.  Tracie and I have 23 years of marriage under our belt and I really feel like we just started getting good at it within the last few years.

2. Leisure 

Everyone enjoys different things. Like two circles that connect and overlap, there are going to be things that BOTH of you enjoy together.  You may enjoy them in a different way, but you both enjoy them.  This might be 5-8 things that you and your spouse both love, OR you might only have 1 or 2 things that you both love.

No matter what you enjoy together, do as much of them together as often as you can for as long as God will let you. 

One INDISPUTABLE law of oneness is an enjoyment of being together and doing things together.  MOST women, it’s the being together that matters more.  MOST men, it’s the doing things together that matters more – but BOTH MATTER. For some it might be going to movies.  For others, its travel.  For many it’s simply binge watching murder/mystery television shows on the couch on Friday night.  Some enjoy working out together.  Some love working the yard together.  Some enjoy long walks with deep talks, while others enjoy big gatherings with loud distractions.

Here’s 2 questions to ask.

1. What do you LOVE to DO TOGETHER?

2. What keeps you from doing it dailyweeklymonthly?

After you answer those questions – start today.  Do what you love to do together as often as you can for as long as God will let you!

3. Intimacy

Most women reading this will assume I’m talking about emotional connect, and most men reading this will HOPE I’m talking about SEX! Well, you’re both right.

Emotional intimacy and physical intimacy go hand in hand with fostering ONENESS in your marriage.  God gave us the most beautiful gift of a man and women joining together physically for the purpose of emotional connection, pleasure, and procreation. That sounds pretty unexciting – but, Greatest. Gift. Ever.

I wish I could give you a 3-step process to increasing intimacy in your marriage – however there’s only one thing that can do it.

TRUST

Trust is the key to intimacy. To whatever degree of mistrust that exists between you and your spouse, intimacy will be lacking.  If you don’t trust your spouse to care when you share your soul, you’re struggling with emotional connection at home. If your spouse is manipulative and leverages the promise or rejection of physical touch for personal interests, your sex life is struggling.

The path to intimacy is TRUST. Trust is GIVEN and EARNED.  You must take a step to trust your spouse more and more each day and know that this trust will grow.  When trust grows, physical and emotional intimacy will also grow.

Communication. Leisure. Intimacy. 

Three practical things you can do today to foster ONENESS in your marriage.

What is 1 > 2?

By Matt Dawson


How many remember these drills in Math Class? 

(chose the proper > or < sign for the following numbers) 

4     5

7     6

3    10

9     8

I even remember when I was a kid being told that the best way to remember what sign did what was to think about PacMan.  The PacMan eats the larger number.  Or, the small end “points” to the lowest number. I did okay in math, but I always had trouble remember which sign meant what!

So why name a series 1>2 when clearly that flies in the face of math professors across the globe? 

Because in God’s economy when it comes to the topic of marriage, ONE is GREATER than TWO.

When Jesus spoke about marriage in Matthew 19, he quotes the Jewish scriptures (Genesis 2:24) “Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” Jesus helped us begin to understand that when two come together…they become STRONGER…GREATER than the individual two.

There is something very unique about the way that God designed marriage. Paul talks at length about this in Ephesians 5:21-33 as he describes two individuals giving 100% of themselves to each other – and becoming ONE. Again, math wizards struggle with God’s economy. Paul also quotes Jesus words in Matthew 19 and Genesis 2 when he says, “As the Scriptures say, ‘A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.” Paul tells us this is a MYSTERY but also tells us it is a PICTURE of the relationship between Christ and His church.

Over the next several weeks, we’re going to discuss this paradox.  That ONE IS GREATER THAN TWO. That God has a design and plan for our marriage that is stronger and greater than what we could individually accomplish.  If you’re not married (single or single-again), we hope this series will strengthen your resolve to not settle for the way our culture has defined relationships – but to TRUST GOD’S WAY in marriage!

Spiritual Growth

By Don Gentry


On Sunday I had the opportunity to preach a difficult sermon. It wasn’t difficult to say, but difficult because I love our church and some of what I shared was hard to hear. As I said on Sunday, growing up is hard to do.

As a reminder, I had eight spiritual disciplines that I addressed that are necessary to help us grow and mature. If you weren’t there the disciplines were Prayer, Bible reading, Fasting, Solitude, Practicing a Sabbath, Giving, Worship, and Sharing your faith. As Matt shared two weeks ago most of us live in some form of arrested development in our spiritual walk. As you read this list there is a great chance that you may live in Arrested Development in one of these disciplines. (If you don’t know what I mean by arrested development then click here to listen to Matts sermon.)

The very awesome nature of the God we serve does not condemn us in our walk, but He challenges us to experience all that He has for us, as He has created us for greater things than we can possibly think or imagine. Because of His great desires for us, if you find yourself not quite as mature as you would like or as mature as you think you could be, then let me challenge you to a three-step process.

1. Don’t get discouraged. Maturity is a marathon not a sprint. None of us have arrived. We all get to spur one another on to better things.
2. Do an honest evaluation. Look at the list of the eight disciplines and use a scoring matrix of 1-10. 1 being the devil and 10 being Jesus. (That is a little bit of Donnie humor.) Then decide if you like where you score yourself. Don’t compare yourself to any other human. This is between you and God. The true measure of an athlete is not what he/she can do in comparison to others, but only what he/she can do in comparison to their own best self. This is true in athleticism and spiritual disciplines.
3. Make a plan. Start with a baby step. If you find yourself at a 1 don’t determine to be a 10 by the end of the month. Take a step toward a 2 then a 3. Be patient with yourself. A baby doesn’t skip childhood to become a mature adult. There is a necessity for each step in the process of life that we go through as humans. The same is true spiritually. There is incredible value in growing up in the maturity of our faith. If you struggle with making a realistic plan. Seek outside assistance, a loved one, a good Christian friend, or ask one of us on staff we would love to help.

Once you take these three simple steps ask the Holy Spirit to help you. The scriptures say the flesh is willing but the spirit is weak. You need the help of the Holy Spirit to keep you committed. Maturing spiritually is impossible without the Holy Spirit, Jesus sent His Spirit to help us in our walk because He knew we would need help after He left this earth. You have access to God 24/7 with the Holy Spirit. Seek His assistance as you develop in your faith.

Love you all and hope you have an awesome week!

Childish vs Childlike Faith

By Matt Dawson


If you’ve had the opportunity to be with us for the past 2 weekend, we took a look at how we can better understand and reach the Next Generation (or today’s church).

Don mentioned a very famous phrase spoken in “Christianese” that is centered around Matthew 18:3. For those who grew up in church, you’ve heard it a thousand times. “Child Like Faith.”

However, as we approach this new series entitled “Don’t Be a Baby” it’s important to discuss the differences in CHILDLIKE Faith and CHILDISH Faith. They sound ALIKE, but are very different in actual definition.  As we prepare for this new series, let’s talk about these 2 faiths.

CHILDISH Faith
The best way to describe a childish faith is one that based on conditional trust and a stubborn heart. It’s very us-centered, outcome oriented, and self-serving.  One with childish faith will say “I must have answers in order to trust You” and “I must get MY WAY in order to follow You.”

The primary issue with a childish is that it simply cannot withstand the grown-up problems we face every day.  Because it’s rooted in self and fueled by desired outcomes, we simply cannot GROW with a childish faith.  We’re STUCK.

CHILDLIKE Faith
The best way to describe Childlike faith is one that is based on complete trust and quick repentance. It’s God-centered, purpose driven, and focused on the Kingdom. One with childlike faith will say “I TRUST you even without all the answers” and “I’ll follow you even though I may not like the outcome.”

The primary benefit for Childlike faith is that God is now the center of everything. No matter how complicated and complex our lives become, we trust that God is always at work and He can be trusted to meet every need.

MIX and MATCH

People often experience both childish and Childlike faith as they are growing in their relationship with Christ.  It plays out in many ways throughout our lives.

  • Susan exercises childlike faith to help her overcome her natural anxiety, BUT is STUCK in childish faith when it comes to tithing and financial stewardship. She’s experiencing some growth in one area, but struggling in the other.
  • Bill exercises Childlike faith in his career, trusting God to take care of his future, BUT is STUCK in childish faith when it comes to his relationships and sexual temptations. He feels he’s growing in one area of his faith, but doubting God in the other.

As we dive into this new series “Don’t Be a Baby”, I want you to consider the areas of your life where you exercise a Childlike Faith and the areas where you’re stuck in a Childish Faith.

I hope to see you Sunday!

Model It!

By Don Gentry


We are doing a two-part sermon series on how we can reach the next generation. We really need to understand the we are reaching the “current generation.” If we fail to reach this generation then the next unborn generation is without hope.

As we think about reaching our current generation we need to wrestle with the question of how do we reach them. There are two primary modes of reaching the current generation. The home and the Church. If we want to reach anyone for Christ these two components must work in unison.

I will forever be an advocate that parents/home trump the church when it comes to learning about God. I am talking about church going people. I am not addressing people living far from God. There are stories of people being saved and reached for Christ without having a good home life or Christian parents. That is an entirely separate conversation. When the church and the home are combined children/youth will gravitate towards what mom and dad do, not what church does or says. Let me explain.

If you ever say or think, “do as I say not as I do,” you are a hypocrite. I am not saying we must be perfect, but we do need to learn to apologize and repent when our actions don’t coincide with what we say are our beliefs. Don’t use the old excuse that I am just human and I am a sinner. The church is then designed to come alongside and support whatever is being taught in the home, not to replace the home.

Whether you are a parent or an adult that attends church the “next generation” is watching. Kids are always watching! They are watching you in the lobby at church, listening in the hall and parking lot, they are watching how you interact with others, they are listening when you are on the phone, watching how you drive, sneaking in on you while you watch TV and surf the net, on and on I could go. What you model is what they learn and do!!

Kids are sponges! They soak up everything, so be careful what you are leaking. The church is here to help lead the “current generation” to God, but the church can’t make up for toxic waste that was leaked at home. Please hear me, I am not preaching perfection or guilt; godliness and holiness should be the desire of our hearts. Kids will always be able to tell if they are expected to live out of a list of rules or if they are expected to live out of a love for Jesus. If you wonder what they are learning, just watch what is leaking out of their sponges.

Love you all and hope to see you on Sunday!

Get the Most Out of Your Bible Reading

By Zack DeBerry


As we enter the last week of our Read Your Bible Series here at Journey Church, I think it is helpful to continue to talk through some practical steps to Reading the Bible consistently and getting something practical out of it as you do. In just 5 chapters we have touched on so many different elements of the Christian life and really honed in on the heart of all the Gospel. The Bible from cover to cover is about Jesus. Everything from Genesis to Revelation is about proclaiming the person and work of Jesus Christ. So, the question is how do we unpack that truth as we read the Bible in our daily life?

I thought the best way to answer that question would be to just give you some tools that you can use as you read the Bible in your daily walk. Most of these are not new or groundbreaking, but just things that have helped me to dig a little deeper as I read.

1. A Bible – This one is obvious, but I would recommend getting something you can enjoy reading. There are vast amounts of “versions” of the Bible these days, but my preferences are the New Living translation (NLT), Holman Christian Standard (HCSB), and The Message (MSG). I also use the Bible App on my iPad rather than a bound version.

2. A Plan – This is another thing that is necessary in my opinion. A plan doesn’t have to be
restrictive, but it is helpful to give you some direction. You wouldn’t start a trip to a new destination without consulting a map of some sort. Reading the Bible is the same and having a reading plan is like having a map to get you where you want to go. I use many of the free plans within the Bible app personally, but you can use whatever is out there whether it’s a Read the Bible in a Year or something topical. There are so many great reading plans available and it is very helpful as you endeavor to get the most from your reading.

3. Some Other Tools – This is a personal preference for you, but the other thing I use and would recommend using is some other tools. I tend to get the most from commentaries and podcasts, so that is where I go the most. I have several Bible teachers I follow with podcasts and will often listen to what they have to say about scripture as I am reading. I also use an app called Logos. Logos is an app with a lot of commentaries and books that are available to help you dig deeper into your reading.

Those are my 3 main things I use as I venture to get the most out of my reading. The main thing is commit to a process. Everyone’ process may be different, but just commit to finding something that works for you. For me it’s in the morning time with some coffee. It is how I try to start everyday with the knowledge that there is something that I may face that day and the only way I can get through it is to lean into the words that I read in the Bible. I pray that this series has challenged you to continue to read the Bible and to dig deeper everyday as we all seek to discover God’s truths and live them consistently in our life. I hope that as we close this series you would find a process that helps you read and discover all that God has for you in His words found in the Bible.

Students and Summer Break?!?!

By Don Gentry


School is out and now your routine is all jacked up! Your kids are home all day, day care costs have soared, activities to help fight the boredom are needed, let’s schedule ten thousand activities for them to get involved in. Stress of summer is in full swing and we need to check ourselves.

Regardless of your situation, let me challenge you that our children and teens need their summer break. Our children are living in one of the most “stressed” out times of history. We have an ever-increasing number of students on anxiety meds. We need to ask ourselves why? The “fitting in,” “self-esteem” issues have been around for years. But there is a new element that has been added to the modern-day student’s life that I believe has added an incredible amount of undue stress–Technology.

Technology has magnified stress ten-fold. For example, if your child doesn’t have electronic gadgets they are left out. If you don’t let them have the apps they want their life is unfair and you are the worst parent ever. If they do have all the social media apps they lose the art of social interaction and communication and run the risk of being cyber bullied or being abducted by sick predators. Technology now even allows parents the opportunity to lose their minds over their students grades before the poor kid even gets home from school.

Let me just pause here for a moment. I have heard of parents grounding their children for their PowerSchool grades. Let me suggest some parents are on PowerSchool at a very unhealthy rate. It can be a great tool, but let me remind you of the day that we got our report cards quarterly and we got to increase our grades over the course of a quarter or semester. I know we want what is best for our kids, but maybe we should think about what we are doing as we stress our kids out.

The yelling and screaming that happens at homework time, the yelling and screaming that happens because of grades. This is all very unhealthy stress. Don’t get me wrong, homework is necessary, awareness is good, involvement is honorable, but there are excesses. When you combine all of this with the undue stress that teachers are putting on our kids it is no wonder that our kids are stressed out.

As parents, it is our job to help our children learn to manage stress not create it. That is why summer is great. As a parent do some honest self-evaluation. Are you making your child miserable? Too many adults tell me that their kid is making them miserable. We are the adults. It is on us to figure out how to deal with our crap not stress our kids out because we are stressed out.

Use summer as an opportunity to relax as a family. Cut out activities and learn to simplify life. Your kids need a break and they need a stress-free summer. You have half the summer left. What can you do as a family to make it as stress free as possible?

I’m Bored!!!

By Don Gentry


If you are a parent then you have heard the dreaded phrase, “I’m bored!” We all respond to that phrase differently, but the reality is whether we are children, teens, or even adults we have all been faced with finding that life can create some doldrums. What we may not all do well is respond to the mundane routine of life in the same fashion.

There are two words that will resolve all boredom! These two words are sure to change your world forever! These two words work no matter your age. Here are the two words free of charge.

DO SOMETHING!

It may seem a bit too simplistic so I will try to break it down a little more for you.

Volunteer
Here at Journey we partner with several great organizations. We would encourage you to find one that may work into the rhythm of life in your family. Here is a list of the organizations that we partner with at Journey that would be great to see if you can do something together as a family or as an individual:

Bags of Hope https://www.facebook.com/BagsofHopeLKN/
ADA Jenkins https://www.adajenkins.org/,
Children’s Hope Alliance https://www.childrenshopealliance.org/
Hope House of Huntersville https://www.hopehousefoundation.org

There are so many more local charities that you can find. It may take a little research but find a charity that you resonate with and figure out how to serve. You could simply find an elderly person/couple in your area and just talk with them or find out if they need anything done at their house. The opportunities to volunteer are endless, yet it remains the easiest way to stop boredom – serve others. When we serve, we take our eyes off our current situation and point our attention elsewhere.

Go Explore
You could label this exercise, go hiking, walking, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, etc. I love the word explore because it means you get to find something you haven’t ever found. There are unbelievable greenways all through Charlotte. Stacy and I have found several different greenways on our date day. Leave the kids at home and find some fun time with your spouse. We have found some awesome trails in Charlotte. (Yes we have found some we won’t ever return too as well. )

Check out Wing Haven if you like birds or Daniel Stowe Garden, buy a membership, return often, support a good cause. Check out one of the many mountain trails within a short drive from Charlotte: Crowder Mountain, Kings Mountain, Grandfather Mountain, Chimney Rock, Stone Mountain, etc. Go explore the area you live in!

You may not have time so create a scavenger hunt for your kids and have them go explore.
If you can’t come up with something on your own check out this site. Lots of great ideas.
http://www.parents.com/familyfun-magazine/

Read
They still have this thing called a Library. If you don’t have any books in your house go find one. Reading is a portal to worlds untold. Teach your kids to read!!!!!!! Teach yourself to read!!!!!! Enough said!

Learn Something New
Find a new hobby! Create a science experiment, put a model together, paint a picture, build something, learn to crochet, learn a new game, play a new family game. We just got the game Speak Out. It is hilarious! If you are single then take up a new hobby. When we are bored, we have allowed our minds to become inactive. You need to stimulate a new area of your brain. Learn something!

Why Independence Day is a Good Day for Christians

By Zack DeBerry

Why Independence Day is a Good Day for Christians

There are several holidays through the year that can carry weight for a follower of Jesus Christ.  Easter, Christmas, and…Independence Day? At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of our Savior and King. At Easter, we celebrate the end of the reign of death and sin for the believer. And Independence Day can be a great reminder of the freedom that we have as followers of Christ.

We celebrate our independence as a country on July 4th every year. It is a time to celebrate the sacrifices that have been made to keep us free from tyranny; it is a time to gather with family and friends; it is a time to reflect on what it means to be a citizen and have certain rights that others in the world long for.  I want to propose that as great as Independence Day is for us as Americans, it can also give us a deeper appreciation for what it means to be free from sin and death. 

There are many parallels between Independence Day and the freedom that Jesus Christ gives us as followers of Christ. Just as we celebrate and honor the sacrifices that keep our country free, we should also take time to celebrate and honor God for the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus gave to give us freedom from sin and death. Just as we celebrate the rights we have as Americans, we should also celebrate the incredible power and rights we have as followers of Christ. Just as we celebrate with family and friends with cookouts and fireworks, we should celebrate the fact that we have been adopted into an everlasting family through the work of Jesus Christ.

One of the more popular verses of scripture as it pertains to freedom in Christ is found in Galatians Chapter 5. As we enter into a study of Galatians as a church, it’s important to remember that even as we have been set free from sin and death, many folks still live as though they are still trapped in the bondage of slavery. The church of Galatia was caught in this trap. Rather than celebrate the freedom that existed because of the work of Jesus Christ, they continued to strap weights on bondage through rules and regulations. Paul goes on a teaching tirade about what Christ really did, and begins to close his thoughts in Chapter 5.  Verse 1 of Chapter 5 is timely for us on this Independence Day. Paul writes, “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.”

So, let’s celebrate our freedom as Americans today, but more importantly, let’s never forget the ultimate freedom we have in Jesus Christ.  Happy Independence Day…from sin and death.

Why Do Men Find Their Identity in Work?

By Ryan Weber


As a Youth Pastor, I’ve come to realize that most, if not all, students struggle with their own sense of identity. It’s a huge issue. Who am I? Why am I here? We’ve talked about issues of identity a lot at Journey over the past couple months, and there has been some common threads that I’ve noticed through it all:

  • Identity vs. Behavior
  • Who I am vs. What I do

The problem with this tension is that we believe one is a byproduct of the other. I am who I am because I do what I do. I play basketball so I am a basketball player. I crunch numbers so I am an accountant. I dislocate my shoulder on a blob so I am a Youth Pastor, etc. We start with our activity and let that inform our identity.

This carries over to men and the intrinsic value they find in the work that they do. We as men not only feel a burden to provide for our family, but I believe that an essential characteristic of God is exhibited in men’s desire to create. God worked for six days and created the universe. We work from 9-5 and we want to create… insert the reason you do what you do here.

This goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve first sinned. When Adam cursed man (as in the male, not mankind), He said this:

“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19).

Notice that God’s curse didn’t bring on work. It brought on toil and sweat. It made work harder. The necessity for Adam to work, create, tend, care for, oversee, lead, etc. was an intrinsic part of who God created him to be. He was made to create, just like his Father. Our curse is that work is difficult. We deal with sweat, difficult people, deadlines, budgets, deals, you name it as a result of this curse.

So our difficulty as men comes from this innate need to reflect this creative characteristic of our Heavenly Father. We work because He works.

However, our issue stems from the fact that we carry this innate need over to an identity. We take what we do and we morph it into who we are. I guarantee that when you first meet someone, one of the first questions you will ask is: “So what do you do?” This is a huge part of what makes us, us. And because our work becomes our identity, we throw ourselves into it as much as possible. If you are a success at work, you are a successful person. If you fail at work, you are a failure.

This line of thinking leaves you in the precarious situation that your identity is contingent upon your own performance. And this has the dangerous tendency to produce two things: A successful person who has no need for God because he is his own god. Or you are working so hard for something just beyond your reach that you believe if you work just a little bit harder or longer, you’ll attain that something that you’re looking for.

Your identity has nothing to do with what you do. Your behavior is a reflection of who you are, but who you are is found in Jesus Christ. The value He places over you, the purposes that He has called you to. Are you to work? Absolutely. Colossians 3:23 says that, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” We were created to work, but our work should be a reflection of the identity we have found in Jesus Christ, and it should produce fruit for the glory of God.

So I will encourage you to remember why you work. You work to reflect an essential characteristic of God. You don’t work to prove to anyone, yourself included, that you are worth it. Jesus has already done that. You work to bring glory to His name.