Message Preview | The Power of Identity

By Matt Dawson

What Tax Collectors and Homosexuals Have in Common

Mark 2:15-16 “Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with such scum?’”

I’ve always been fascinated by these passages that list out sinners, but feel the need to IDENTIFY the tax collectors separately.  I’ve studied enough of scripture to know WHY this is the case, but every time I read it – it always stands out.

Everyone (in that time) viewed “tax-collectors” as the WORST of all sinners. The religious community in that day decided that they would rank them separately (with emphasis) to make sure they weren’t lumped in with all the LESSER SINNERS (like those who simply broke one of the 613 laws that didn’t matter as much). They weren’t like the “other sinners” – they were WORSE.

I find this remarkably similar to this day and age when many in the religious communities refer to homosexuals (and all of those represented in the LGBTQ community) as a separate category of sinners.

I know people can be mad about this comparison (Matt – no one is BORN a tax collector…), but just indulge me for a moment as we consider what both the IDENTITY of the Tax Collector and the Homosexual have in common.

Behavior EQUALS Identity

There are FEW sinful behaviors that have risen to the place that someone becomes permanently labeled and marked as their identity.  During Jesus’ time on earth, Tax Collector was ONE OF THEM. Today, it’s sins of sexual nature that seem to have their own category. The common ground is that BOTH identities are marked by the PRIMARY BEHAVIOR they represent. We see murderers, adulterers, pedophiles, etc. are also labels given to folks, but this is NOT an identity that the individual RECEIVES and EMBRACES.

Both Tax Collectors and Homosexuals EMBRACE and RECEIVE this identity as their own.

However, we won’t find “tax-collecting” as a list of sins anywhere in the New Testament. Being a Tax Collector was a combination of sins.  Rebellion & betrayal against God’s people, lying, stealing, and some additional things that came along with that “lifestyle.”  Homosexuality is listed as a sin, but also is described (Romans 1) as a rebellion and betrayal of God’s law. We label BOTH around the PRIMARY ACT it represents.

Just as we saw in Jesus’ day, we’ve decided to categorize the IDENTITY of the homosexual as a separate and shameful category of a sinner. I believe if the Bible were written TODAY, Mark’s verse would read “Jesus went to Levi’s home for dinner, along with many homosexuals and other sinners.”

Behavior DOES NOT EQUAL Identity

As Christ followers – this is CRUCIAL to understand for several reasons.

If we had to identify ourselves by our individualistic sinful decisions and behaviors – then I would be 15-20 (at least) different people every single day. Obviously we don’t do that – so we simply mark it under the umbrella of SIN. We understand when the book of Romans tells us that “we all fall short of the glory of God.”

We also have to remember that sexual sin is NOT categorized as a GREATER SIN. Paul tells us in his letter to the church in Corinth that ALL SEXUAL SIN does something specific (it hurts us, not just others), but he did not hold homosexuality out as something separate and therefore WORSE than all other sins. It’s ALL sexual immorality.

It’s as important that we remember that God gives us ALL an IDENTITY in CHRIST if we choose to follow Him. That means that my GIVEN IDENTITY is JESUS no matter what BEHAVIOR I’m involved in, or sin that I’ve committed, or will commit.  If our behavior is our salvation…then we’re all screwed!  Jesus made this very clear, hence WHY we needed a Savior!

Whatever identity we’ve been GIVEN or have EMBRACED and RECEIVED does not carry with it the FULL WEIGHT of the sin it represents. My daughter has a friend in school who identifies as GAY. This does not mean that he’s actually done anything SINFUL.  He’s 11 – so I can’t be sure, but after meeting him and hearing about him, I sincerely doubt it. Just as someone who says they are a CHRISTIAN doesn’t actually mean they are living for Christ – we cannot allow a GIVEN or RECEIVED identity to be the only measurement we use. 

Remember, Jesus was GIVEN the label “drunkard, glutton, and friend of tax collectors and sinners.”

Matthew 11:19 The Son of Man, (a title Jesus used for himself) on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ But wisdom is shown to be right by its results.”

Our TRUE identities will define the lives we live. Jesus said that WISDOM would be seen in the results of one’s life. 

The Power of Identity

This Sunday, we will be doing a very special message that discusses the POWER of our identity and the results of how it affects our lives.  Not only for those who IDENTIFY themselves by the labels, assessments, and past experiences in their lives – BUT THE IDENTITY GIVEN to us by Jesus and the FREEDOM we have to live in it!

Disney’s BIG MOMENT in Beauty and the Beast

By Matt Dawson

I’ve purposely waited to comment on this or write anything about it until after the gay hype/big moment was finally revealed when the movie came out. I also wanted to wait until everything died down after the movie came out to see how the Church (big C) would continue to respond when all was revealed.

I think an article I read the week the movie came out said it best. Here’s the quote. “Disney played the Christian right as smoothly as Gaston played the village townsfolk.”

I couldn’t agree more.

What?!?!? Are you saying, Matt, that you aren’t outraged by the intentional Godless propaganda of the LGBTQ friendly Disney (Satan incarnate) is shoving down our kid’s throats to try and normalize alternative lifestyles through cartoons, movies, and television shows?!?!?!?! WHAT ARE YOU SAYING?!

I’m saying that WE GOT PLAYED!

Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 10:16
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

Jesus knew what kind of world they lived in and to what lengths others would go to entrap them, trick them, and get them to abandon this NEW MESSAGE of Grace and love for one another by playing on their weaknesses. It’s a SHAME that more Christians don’t memorize THIS VERSE!

You see, regardless of the politics and the overall agendas that you may or may not assume are behind movements like this – Jesus wanted us to be WISE! To be INNOCENT/HARMLESS as doves AND to be SHREWD/ASTUTE as snakes!

Listen, Disney knew EXACTLY what to say to get the “Church” to respond with anger, judgment, and condemnation. Over what? Over the IDENTITY of a Disney Character!

I grew up with two guys who lived together. They were best friends, they shared many adventures together. They loved each other and they represented (for me) how 2 guys can be best friends. Their names were BERT and ERNIE. I’ve been told recently (in the last 10 years) that they were gay. Am I supposed to be MAD now? Am I supposed to question everything that they ever taught me about life and friendship because someone wants to IDENTIFY THEM as gay? Now there are fundamentalist movements that are pushing to get BERT & ERNIE off the air…because they’re gay now…or always have been…or something like that.

Are we (the Church) really THIS FOOLISH! That we can’t see someone trying to BAIT US a mile away! It sure seems like we are!

What does it mean to be SHREWD?
It means understanding that people without God will do all that they can do to get you to abandon your “claimed faith” by baiting you into a fight that has no winner and whose only goal is to watch you hang yourself by your own hypocrisy!

What does it mean to be INNOCENT?
It means to be without sin. That every time someone picks a fight with you and challenges your faith – you don’t revert back to a response that is void of the Holy Spirit guiding your lives! When we respond with the same anger that anyone without Jesus can have….we’re no longer INNOCENT!

One of the reasons I believe the Church has lost her influence in the fights that matter is because of the hypocrisy we display in the school yard brawls that mean little to nothing! We’re smarter than that! Jesus even WARNED US to be smarter than that!

As far as Beauty and The Beast is concerned and our warning in Matthew 10:16 – we (the Church) failed on BOTH COUNTS!

Disney’s BIG MOMENT was just another BIG MOMENT for us (the Church) to lose even more influence with those we’ve been called to point to Absolute Hope.

This Sunday at Journey – I’ll be talking more about “The Power of Identity” and how can better understand those around us who identify with lifestyles we don’t agree with or don’t understand. We will also learn what it means to understand our TRUE identity in Christ and LIVE in the FREEDOM it provides!

Message Preview | What Happens When… Part 3

By Ryan Weber

When Science Challenges Your Faith

Last year, Journey Students did a series called God Science. Our goal in that series was to figure out what went on between God and Science: “vs,” “or,” “and” “hates,” “loves.” What fits? In the series, we touched on many of the apologetic discussions regarding the dichotomy between God and science.

Unsurprisingly, the discussion centered upon two different things: Creation vs. Evolution, and the verifiable and historical proofs for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those seem to be the biggies when it comes to any apologetic discussion in the realm of science, and PhD’s and theologians have been arguing and debating for centuries about these. The answers are out there, you just need to check your bias (we ALL have a bias… I’ll explain more this weekend) and do a little research. Those discussions are ancient.

The tension that we’ll be discussing is our view of PROGRESS. Should we embrace it? Should we reject it? What is the line between being a progressive and a conservative when it comes to scientific discovery? What progress comes from God and what comes from scientists with an anti-religious bias? This is tension! Because Christians have a reputation for being completely anti-progressive (you’re not… even if you’re an “ultra-conservative”), this narrative is spoken everywhere.

I want to spend the remainder of this preview talking about the greatest tension that science poses to our faith moving forward. And this is in the areas of transhumanism and bioethics. And before you think I’m more of a genius than I actually am, I hadn’t even thought about these things before I sat down with Donnie to prepare for the message I’m preaching on Sunday morning.

Transhumanism = Artificial Intelligence

Bioethics = the ethics of medical and biological research

These two areas are going to be instrumental in shaping our future and if we as Jesus followers don’t engage in the tension that these areas will present, our world could potentially move in a direction that we don’t want it to move.

We need to begin engaging our minds in scientific discussion. And believe me, I hate science just as much as you. I hate it. Can’t stand it. Throw up when I think about it. But we need to begin to learn how to learn. Google is your friend if you use it the right way. Because this world is moving, and we cannot be left behind.

The questions that we must engage in revolve around the inevitable progress of science in these two areas and the position in which we stand as advocates, campaigners, champions… for people. We as Jesus followers stand for people, their intrinsic value, their will, their standing in the eyes of God.

Is it appropriate, then, for artificial intelligence to replace humanity in jobs, displacing them and perhaps any value or purpose? Or will it make everyone’s lives easier? We can just sit on cruise control and let the machines do all the work? What about cloning? If a person was created in a lab, were they created in the image of God? What about micro-whatever’s that scientists can potentially implant to track your movement, track your vitals, or even change your brain chemistry to help you avoid certain overt criminal activity? Progress?

What about an article I read on BBC where scientists are creating life-size, talking, moving sex dolls? (Wish I was joking, but I’m not). Is it adultery when you trade sex with your spouse with sex with an animatronic doll? You’re not hurting anyone. right? You’re not technically sleeping with anyone else, right?

This blog post is littered with questions marks. That’s because these questions are so complex and wide-ranging. It’s also because nobody is having these conversations, which is why we’re starting the conversation this Sunday at Journey! Invite a friend and let’s talk about it!

What do you think about…

By Don Gentry

What do you think about self-driving cars?  What about Nano-technology?  What about Transhumanism?  What about AI? What about IOT?  What about bio-ethics?  Why do I even ask?

I love science and I believe Christ followers need to be leading the way in all the above listed technological advances.  I would bore you to death if I talked about each of them, but let me just talk about IOT.  Better known as Internet of Things.  If you don’t know what it is then you better start studying it because it is changing the world you live in.  You think our world is digitized now, according to a business insider they are predicting that by 2020 there will be 24 billion IOT devices on the face of the earth.  4 devices per human being.  24,000,000,000 devices.

The question is, does it matter to the average follower and or should it matter?  Self-driving cars are all driven by IOT. Insurance premiums and risk management are going to be driven by your web bed searches and health habits that you willingly up load on your personal devices that are constantly monitoring your activity levels and even your sexual activity.  Let’s not mention the new web based information that is mandatory for the medical community to upload and share with one another.  Those key tags you scan to get the sales at the grocery store, yeah, they are tracking your monthly cycles.

Do you care yet?  How about AI (Artificial intelligence)? Should we be doing research and creating computer devices that can think and interact with humans at an emotional or even sexual level?

I hope you now have IOT on your radar.  If Christ followers don’t start researching and engaging in discussions on what are the practical and ethical implications of these discoveries we are going to have an interesting society.

Here is my formula for engaging in all things science related.  My faith informs my science, but for many people, including Christians, their science informs their faith.  I obviously think my bias is correct, but it doesn’t really matter what I think.  When we engage in discussion we just need to know our own biases.  Whether you want a bias or not, you have one.

I believe we can be very relevant and engage in cutting edge technology and discovery, and still have the bias of faith informing science; however, many in the western church would disagree with me.  My challenge to you is for you decide what you think.  What is your bias?

We live in a world that is changing before our eyes because of computer science. I haven’t heard many, if any, Christians discussing articulately or intelligently how our faith should influence these incredible inventions.  Let’s be on the cutting edge of discussion.  Inform yourself as to your bias, inform yourself on the different scientific topics, and then engage in discussion.

I hope you find tension as you answer does your faith inform your science or does your science inform your faith.  Because, as Matt says, “the power lies in the tension!”  Love you all and hope to see you Sunday!

Message Preview | What Happens When Family Challenges My Faith

By Matt Dawson

I’ve had the awesome privilege of being married to my amazing bride for the past 23 years! It’s that amount of time where we can actually tell what each other is thinking about 80-90% of the time and ALMOST finish each other’s sentences.

My wife challenges my faith.  Not in a bad way – in the BEST way!  We love having discussions about what the Bible says and what we think it means. Sometimes, we have differing opinions and try to convince each other of our position.  I LOVE THIS!  My wife is extraordinary studious so even if I’ve come close to convincing her about my position, there’s no doubt she will continue to study the subject until she’s satisfied. I’m so fortunate to have a partner in life who challenges my faith! 

However, we’ve had many friends who don’t share in this joy. Their faith is challenged constantly, but not in a good way.  It’s challenged from an unbelieving spouse who doesn’t support them.  It’s challenged from their children who walked away from the church at 14 and have yet to return.  It’s challenged from their adult siblings who raise kids differently, or from parents who don’t see value in your faith, but instead see it as something that separates them from you.

It’s a difficult path to walk when those closest to you…those that are supposed to “get you” at every level challenge one of the most important parts of your life. If there’s power in the tension, its often impossible to see past the pain and hurt we are experiencing.

This Sunday (Mother’s Day), we’re going to continue our discussion of how to manage the Tension between Fear and Faith when challenged by those we love most.  

MOTHER’S DAY AT JOURNEY: We will have free cafe drinks for all mothers, as well as neck massages in the lobby (by a trained professional).  Don’t miss the photo opportunity as well (provided by the awesome folks at SocialBooth) to take a picture with your mom and/or send your mom some love via social media from the lobby.


See you Sunday!

A Home Divided? What to Do When Family Challenges our Faith

By Matt Dawson

In preparation for this week’s installment of “What Happens When…” I want to point you to a PODCAST that Tracie and I did last year concerning this topic.

If this doesn’t happen to be an issue for you or anyone in your family…then it’s hard to understand how the tension around faith plays itself out in a family.  Although we will tackle this from a broader spectate this weekend at Journey, this podcast dives into the issue of husbands and wives who have different beliefs.