Message Follow Up | A Dimly Lit Room – Part 1: Who He Is

By David McNeely



God is mysterious. Blog is done.

Ok so a little further explanation is required. Although the entirety of the Godhead is mysterious, the Holy Spirit seems to be the one with whom we have the least understanding. RC Sproul wrote an entire book on it and titled it, The Mystery of the Spirit.

In Forgotten God, Francis Chan writes, “As I thought about writing this chapter, I realized how ludicrous it would be for anyone to say they were going to explain the Holy Spirit. The Bible says we cannot fully understand God, and I am certainly not going to be the exception to that rule.”

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Message Follow Up | The E-Word: Part 3 – Take the Step

By Zack DeBerry



I don’t know about you, but I have enjoyed the E word series. I’ve always had a desire to reach out to people who are far from God, but I have always felt like I was not equipped to do it or I would let my fears keeps from taking the next step.

What I have discovered over the course of this series is that Evangelism is less about a rigid guideline and set of rules to be followed and more about how I live my life in this world. It’s less about what we do and more about who we are as we begin to engage people who are far from God in conversation and friendship.

There are some habits that we can begin to employ when we take the step to develop friendships with people who are far from God for the purpose of humbly pointing them to absolute hope. I discovered this list a couple of years ago and I feel it is a great way to begin to reach out to people and begin to take easy steps to develop friendships and discover stories in their lives. It’s an easy to remember acrostic, B.E.L.L.S. Here is what it stands for:


B – Bless

What this means is that we should be willing to bless someone around us when we find out they have some kind of need. This is a great way to begin to develop a friendship and an easy way to find out what is going on in their story.

Challenge: Bless someone who is far from God this week.

E – Eat

This an easy one to do and really it’s something you probably do on a daily basis anyway. Take someone to lunch that you know that is far from God. And Pay for it. You can always get to know someone and hear their story over food.

Challenge: Take someone who is far from God out to Eat.

L – Listen

This is a hard one sometimes because it requires us to take time in prayer and listen to the Spirit of God as He directs us. I truly believe that when we ask in prayer and seek out opportunities to share our faith that God will provide opportunities. We must constantly be Listening so that we can hear God’s voice as He leads us and directs us to people who are far from Him.

Challenge: Spend time each day in Prayer to ask God for opportunities to point people to hope.

L – Learn

What I mean by this is that we have the privilege of sharing the love and hope that Jesus gives and we should take the time to learn more about Him and how to share our story. Everyone has a story, but some people just don’t think it’s worth sharing. I want to tell you that every story where God is involved is a story worth telling. When we get opportunities to share our story with people who are far from God we have to be ready.

Challenge: Take some time this week to write out your story. Who you were before you discovered the Hope of Jesus Christ, How you found that Hope, and How that Hope has changed your life.

S – Sent

The last thing is to really understand that we are sent by God into our neighborhoods, work environments, and families. God longs to use His followers to continue to tell everyone of His fame and freedom in this world. We must realize that it’s not just up to “professional pastors”, but it is the job of every follower of Jesus Christ to go and tell everyone of the hope that we have found.

Challenge: Identify and make a list of ways that you can begin to live a Sent life in your neighborhood, workplace, and family.


I hope that at the end of this series you have an understanding of what Evangelism is, how we can overcome the fears that exist, and begin to take some steps to truly engage with people who are far from God for the purpose of seeing the absolute Hope of Jesus Christ change their stories.

God gave us the privilege of being His messengers of love and hope where He has placed us so let’s take a step this week and see people as He does and share the hope that we have found.

Message Follow Up | The E-Word: Part 2 – Erasing Excuses

By Matt Dawson



Let me just come out and say it:

One of the largest reasons we struggle to share our faith is selfishness!

Plain and Simple.  Not only do we NOT SHARE because “it’s all about us and our fear” but even when we do share – we sometimes share for the wrong reasons.  We don’t know it’s the wrong reason, but when we approach evangelism from any angle that is selfish or manipulative, we dishonor God and fail to do what He’s asked us to do IN THE MANNER He asked us to do it in.

This is a passage we’ve looked at over the past 2 weeks. I want you to see 2 words that I think make a HUGE IMPACT in how we approach sharing our faith.
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Message Follow Up | The E-Word: Part 1 – What Evangelism Is/Isn’t

By Don Gentry



Evangelism gets such a bad rap in the Church.  I think part of the reason why the western church has so much baggage is that we forget the “why” of evangelism.  Let’s take a look at why Jesus told us that he wants us to evangelize the world.

Have you ever read Matthew 24?  If you haven’t, I would strongly encourage you to do so.  In this passage, Jesus makes some prophecies about a coming day.  Jesus prophesies about the future destruction of the world.  He prophesies about a day when people are going to believe that there are multiple pathways to get to God.  Jesus made it abundantly clear that He is the only way to be saved from this impending doom.

If Jesus is who he says He is, then He gave His church a command to go and tell others about who He is.
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Message Follow Up | Context: Part 4 – The Prophets

By Matt Dawson



I’ve really enjoyed diving into the Context Series here at Journey, and I hope it’s been beneficial for you too.

Even if you missed a few weeks, or if you missed yesterday – I want to just recap one statement that brings it all together for me:

Understanding the Context of our Faith helps us SPEAK AND LIVE out of the Greatness of God.

I firmly believe that many of us are NOT living out of the fullness and greatness of God in our lives.  There are many reasons for this spanning from doubt, faith in the wrong things, hardships we don’t understand, or a western apathy towards God fulfilling all of our needs because we can honestly fill most of them ourselves (or think we can).

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Message Follow Up | Context: Part 3 – The Wisdom Books

By Matt Dawson



I’m on a mission.  It’s deeply personal to me.  It’s one of the things I feel God calling me to engage in more and more as I’ve served in the church.

I’m on a mission to help people know – It’s OKAY to ask Questions!

Yesterday, I shared in our Context series that the Wisdom/Poetry books (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecc, and Song of Solomon) help display the LOVE OF GOD and the INTIMACY AVAILABLE TO US.

The primary example I used was Job’s encounter with God in Job 38-42.  This is a hard encounter to read if we don’t understand the beauty of the closeness Job experiences when God reveals Himself to him.  It seems harsh, but it was just a reminder to Job WHO HE WAS and WHO GOD IS.

THIS CLOSE ENCOUNTER with GOD… started with questions.

Job was asking WHY?  He was doubting the reasoning that his wife and friends were bringing to him as to ‘why’ God was allowing the hardship in his life.  His trust remained in God, but he DID QUESTION why God was doing it – what he gained from it – what were the reasons – did he deserve it?

Please understand: THESE QUESTIONS ARE COMPLETELY NATURAL.  We are NOT God – we don’t understand it all.  We cannot comprehend all that God is doing and because of this – we have NO CHOICE but to form questions in our minds.  God understands this – He made us.  He knows what’s in our minds even before we have the chance to voice it. (Psalm 139:3-4)

I have spent many years counseling and coaching Christians on their spiritual journey and I am convinced that somewhere along the way in the last 30 years of Christendom – SOMEONE convinced us that WE ARE NOT ALLOWED TO QUESTION GOD!??!? I don’t know where this came from, but NOTHING could be further from the truth.

Now . . . we are not to TEST God. We are not to DEMEAN God with our attitudes. We are not to approach Him with disrespect or arrogance. (Job 40:2) BUT WE CAN ASK OUR QUESTIONS!  God expects us to – HE KNOWS we don’t have the answers and HE WANTS US TO SEEK THEM FROM HIM.

I believe many wayward followers were derailed in their faith when someone tried to convince them that God was not interested in their questions.  That He didn’t care – or that He would be MAD if you questioned Him about anything.  I’ve even had people tell me they don’t really think they can be a Christian because of the questions they have.  This does not align with what we read in scripture.

Many saints of old grew in their faith because of their questions to God.  The disciples were FILLED with questions – and Jesus was always patient to help them, teach them, work with them to help them understand.  His CLOSEST followers (the inner 3) had questions even after His resurrection!

Please, bring your questions to God.  DON’T STOP following Him because you don’t understand something or question something.  He wants to talk.  He wants to hear from you.  He wants to help you along the way.  He wants to DRAW YOU CLOSE through your questions.

Just think about it:  The questions that you have and are not asking God – could be the very doorway to the breakthrough in your faith that you’ve been longing for!

Don’t wait, bring your questions to God TODAY!

Message Follow Up | Context – Part 2: The Historical Books

By David McNeely



My childhood is filled with memories of Old Testament stories.  I loved it.  I was a rowdy, obnoxious, desperately-in-need-of-the-not-yet-popular-ADHD-medication kid and yet I would sit spellbound for flannel-graph vacation bible school story time.

Story captures our imagination.  Story stirs our souls.  Story has a way of bringing our minds and our hearts to the same location where belief is bred.  The Old Testament historical books (Joshua – 2 Chronicles) are stories.  Among them are some of the most well-known stories in human history: Joshua and the battle of Jericho, Samson and Delilah, David and Goliath, just to name a few.

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Message Follow Up | Context: Part 1 – The Torah

By Matt Dawson

 



I hope you’ve enjoyed last week’s podcast on WHY we are doing this series CONTEXT.  We really do hope that it moves all of us closer to understanding why the Old Testament matters to our lives and our faith.

This past Sunday, I started us off with the first 5 books of the bible – The Torah.  This is the ORIGIN STORY that explains in great detail and with many, many examples WHO WE ARE and WHO GOD IS.  I firmly believe that the MORE we understand those 2 things – the more we will DIVE IN to the fullness of His Word.

Genesis is one of my favorite books of the bible.  Many people struggle with Genesis.  It seems to be the most controversial book of the Old Testament.  Many claim it to be fictional tales or allegorical examples for Christians.

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Message Follow Up | True & False: One Pastor’s View on Homosexuality

By Matt Dawson



I hope you had a chance to listen/watch/attend our service on “Who Changed the Rules about Sex”.  If you have not – please click the video above and catch up on what I believe God intended for us as sexual beings.

However, I was not able to fully dive into one of the more controversial topics around sexuality – people with same sex attraction.  I’ve been burdened for several months to find a way to address this topic for our church.  How we view it, how God views it, and what our response should be as we are called to point everyone to the absolute Hope in Jesus Christ.

With the likely chance I will offend many, please read all of this post and refrain from pulling any ONE line or statement out of context.

I appreciate it.

I obviously can’t cover EVERY aspect of this complex topic, but here are the 3 things I have found to be TRUE and FALSE about our approach to homosexuality.  At the end, I will share with you the PRIMARY REASON I believe the church has struggled to show the love of Jesus to those living with same sex attraction.

TRUE

1. Homosexuality is a SIN. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Romans 1:25-27, 1 Timothy 1:8-10, Leviticus 20:13)

It is.  You cannot read the inspired Word of God and not come to this conclusion.  You may not agree with God about it… but who cares.  God is the one who created all things, he’s allowed to label things as He pleases!  SIN as an entity entered the world at the fall of man, it’s like a disease that has touched and broken ALL of Creation.

Everyone is born IN sin.  Sinful Behavior is anything and everything that separates us from God (working outside of His Will and His Instructions for Life).  The Bible states that ALL SEXUAL BEHAVIOR outside of marriage (regardless of gender) is SIN.  That’s all I have to say about that.

2. There is NO SIN that Jesus’s blood does not cover and NO BEHAVIOR that keeps us from receiving the FULL GRACE of Jesus Christ.

When we read these words from Paul’s letter to the Romans, we cannot argue that homosexual sin is excluded:

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.  Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous.  He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.

Romans 3:23-24 (NLT)

As Paul describes the state of sinful man from Romans, chapter 1 (mentions homosexuality) through chapters 2 and 3, he does so to help us understand that there is NOTHING that we can do to EARN salvation (the law), and that we ALL fall short no matter what sinful behavior we have committed in our lives OR will commit in the future.  Jesus, with underserved kindness, declares ALL OF US righteous because HE has freed us from the penalty (judgement) of SIN.

3. Our conviction of SIN and behavioral transformation is addressed through sanctification (including Homosexuality).

I’ll address some of this in the section below about some of our false beliefs. I also listed below some references for the theological understanding of sanctification.  The simple definition is that AFTER SALVATION, with our eyes fixed on Christ, Jesus (by His Spirit) begins a transformational work in our hearts and we become more and more like Him the longer and closer we walk with Him.

We cannot CHANGE our behavior on our own (this is not self-help) nor do we SEE SIN fully or see it’s effect on us until the Holy Spirit leads us there through opening our eyes and conviction.

All Sinful Behavior is NOT addressed at the time of Salvation.  Salvation is a turning point from living MY life to the START of wanting to live with Jesus as the Lord of my life.  Salvation NEVER stops our sinful behavior.  I was 6 when I got saved, and I’m pretty sure I kept sinning that same day.

Now, I’m 40 years old, the process of sanctification is still happening in my heart.  I still engage in sinful behavior even if I “know” I shouldn’t and even if I’m convicted about it.  The process of becoming more and more like Jesus is slow, but lasting.

It opens my eyes to areas in my life that I’m dealing with today (maybe it’s fear, deceit, gluttony, arrogance, whatever it may be) and it is helping me, guiding me, prompting me towards choosing transformation.  Choosing to live like Jesus and choosing the NEW LIFE He’s given me and not fall back to the OLD LIFE that lingers within me.  This applies to all sexual sin as well.

If you’re unaware of the scriptural references for sanctification, here are a few: Romans 12:2, Romans 7:15-25, 1 Corinthians 10:13, 1 Corinthians 11:1, Ephesians 4:23-24, Galatians 5:22-25.

FALSE

1. God hates homosexual sin more than all other sin.

In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Paul tells us that all those who sin sexually will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  He also says that idolators, thieves, drunks, abusive and greedy people, and liars won’t enter either.  Jesus also said these same words, about un-forgiveness and the rich.

Sure, we can take those single words and verses out and make our case, but we cannot do this in the context of Grace and the rest of scripture.  We also know people who have slept with someone before they were married (as a Christian) and they don’t live in fear of not going to heaven.  God’s Word is not our property to dismantle and rebuild in order to stack evidence against people.

Many misinterpret Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians 6:18, when Paul says sexual sin is like no other sin.  He references this specifically by saying that sexual sin is special because of how it hurts the person committing it.   God doesn’t think less of sexual sinners than other kinds of sinners.  Some Christians may view it that way… but God doesn’t view it that way.

When Jesus rescued a woman caught in adultery from being stoned, he looked at her and said this:

“Then neither do I condemn you… Go now and leave your life of sin.”

John 8:11

Does this mean that this woman NEVER sinned again – not likely. Jesus didn’t condemn her, His grace forgave her (even though she never ASKED for forgiveness) and then challenged her the way he challenges ALL THOSE WHO DESIRE TO FOLLOW HIM… Go and sin no more.

2. Homosexuals cannot be saved if they’ve justified their homosexual behavior.

The largest argument people make is that someone who has justified their actions cannot truly come to Jesus until they have repented of those actions and asked for forgiveness.  However, this lies in a false assumption of what REPENTANCE implies and cannot be taken to the extreme when compared to other sins. (Remember: God views all sinful behavior as SIN… not on a sliding scale of degrees of sin.)

Repentance is a TURNING, and not a TURNING FROM something, but a RETURNING TO someone.  When Jesus said “Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand,” he was asking them to TURN to what He knew they were truly needing and looking for.

Repentance in our culture has this tendency to IMPLY that we are turning FROM all the things we are doing that are WRONG.  However, most folks who come to Christ have almost NO CLUE of all of the things that they are doing that are considered SIN.  Everyone who starts a relationship with JESUS, starts at the foot of the cross with the FULL GRACE OF JESUS forgiving them for sins they have done and sins they have yet to commit.

The idea that a 40 year old woman who has lived with her same sex attraction for 30 of those years is going to fully understand the complexity of all of her SIN including how and why the bible states homosexuality as a SIN – is foolishness and a false understanding of the Gospel!

Remember what I said about sanctification: many who live with same sex attraction will come to the cross of Christ and receive grace and experience the HOPE of Jesus in their lives.  ALL Sin will be addressed and revealed from this point forward as they walk with Jesus in Hope, Faith, and Love!

3. If Christians embrace and love people of same sex attraction – we are approving and condoning sinful behavior.

I’ve never fully understood this false thinking.  If everyone is a sinner, and everyone sins, then aren’t we approving and condoning EVERYONE’S sinful actions?

NO!

To walk along aside a brother in Christ who struggles with an addiction to porn and continues to engage in this behavior – I have ZERO concern that he believes I’m approving or condoning his actions.  This doesn’t keep me from walking with him – AS A MATTER OF FACT, this is reason to get closer and do my best to express the FREEDOM he has to overcome that addiction, temptation, lifestyle.

Jesus never seemed to be concerned about this when He went to Matthew’s house for dinner (a tax collector).  Even though all of the religious leaders were staring at him and accusing him of approving and condoning “those people.”  Jesus looked around and said – “those people” are who I came for!

So, go ahead, call me a friend to homosexuals, prostitutes, adulterers, and fornicators!  As an ambassador for Christ – “those people” are what I’m here for!

Closing Thoughts: The Primary Issue for the Church

Honestly, I don’t know where you stand on this issue.

  • You may totally hate what I’ve said because I’m too grace-filled and not judgmental enough.
  • You may hate what I’ve said because you don’t believe the same way about the authority of God’s Word and what He calls sin.
  • You may agree with me, but still struggle to engage in this conversation with others because of fear and what others might think of you.

The primary reason the Church (western collective church organizations at large) struggles to approach this topic is this – We believe it’s OUR JOB to change people’s behavior!

We believe that as a church, we can legislate anger, lust, adultery, greed, prostitution, gluttony, idolatry, un-forgiveness, hatred, and abuse.  We believe that if we say the right things, challenge people the right way, we can FIX THEM, CHANGE THEIR BEHAVIOR, and get them to ACT AND LOOK MORE LIKE WE THINK THEY SHOULD.

BUT . . .we don’t know how to FIX this!

We don’t know how to “address” same sex attraction.  We don’t know how to get them to stop and change.  And because we don’t know how to fix their “gayness,” we cast judgement and condemnation or worse . . . we remain silent and keep our distance.

Our job is NOT to fix people’s sin problem.  Jesus said “I got this!”

Our call is to LOVE one another as much as we love ourselves, and BY THAT LOVE others will know we belong to Him.

We exist to humbly point everyone (including the LGBT community) to the absolute Hope that they can receive and experience in Jesus Christ.