The Most Difficult Season for Some

By Matt Dawson


‘Tis the Season for laughter, joy, family gatherings, close friends, carols, gifts, cheer, and merriment.

However, we also know that this season is the most difficult season for some. For some, the season brings grief, painful memories, past mistakes, loss of relationships, and feelings of loneliness.

So what do you do when the season of joy is not your season?

You look for absolute Hope!

1 Peter 5:10 In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.

Romans 5:3-5 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

We do not disregard the pain of our lives. We do not ignore the grief in our hearts that results from loss and broken relationships. We are not careless in our current struggles.

However, we are the Children of God. He is a good, good father who will never leave us or abandon us in our times of need. We hold firmly to the truth that God will strengthen us. We cling to a peace that surpasses understanding. We know that OUR HOPE WILL NOT FAIL US!

Christmas is the season in which God restored our relationship with Him through the birth of His Son “Immanuel” (GOD WITH US). It is a season of JOY to all but even more so a season of HOPE!

I’m not sure if Christmas is a season of JOY for you or a season of SORROW. I know that God is WITH YOU!

I know that many people around you may seemingly avoid you during this season because they do not know how to be joyful yet be present with you in your grief and loss. The HAPPIER everyone is around you, the more you will be tempted to ISOLATE yourself and your pain as to not “bring others down.” I pray this prayer for you today.

Romans 15:13 I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

That even in the midst of this difficult season…you will be filled with Hope by the Holy Spirit!

Glocal Economy

By Don Gentry


Racial tension, socio-economic inequality, poverty, first world problems, #blessed. This is a list of buzz-worthy phrases that are typically used to label ways that we experience separation in society. Rather than focusing on how these phrases divide us, let’s look at what they actually have in common?

Regardless of your opinion, regardless of your race, economic status, gender, or academic upbringing, if you claim to be a follower of Christ you are a part of God’s Church. You are capable and responsible to be a part of a Global and Local representation of the church

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:11-13

If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:17

Then Jesus said to his host . . . When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. Luke 14:14

I could list so many other verses in support of this point, but I have personally served in 8 countries and some of the most impoverished cities and towns in America, and I have always been amazed at the generosity and faith of the poor. I have learned far more about trusting and loving God from those who have nothing, than from those who seemingly have everything.

In suburban America, what is our responsibility to God’s church? Is it time? Is it our heart? Is it our resources? How about compassion and generosity? I have very deep personal feelings on this issue, but my feelings and beliefs can never be yours.

I simply ask, “Have you surrendered your worldly possessions to the control of God’s kingdom principles?” If you do not have an answer, then I simply suggest you spend some serious time wrestling with God about what kind of an impact can you be making in this world with what he has entrusted to your stewardship.

I have no intention of quilting you into investing your money or time anywhere. I encourage you to realize that God’s ability to use you far exceeds your home and work environment. Take a moment this week to process if you are experiencing the fullness that God has for you in his global economy. If you need some help and direction in your search, join us Sunday as we talk about the difference you can make globally and locally. We hope to see you then.

Unhealthy Emotions = Unhealthy Life

By Matt Dawson



Lamentations 3:17-20  I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”  I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Read this verse carefully.

Notice all the trigger words that Jeremiah uses to express his unhealthy thoughts that lead to unhealthy emotions. “Forgotten” “Hope Gone” “Remember Affliction, Wandering, Bitterness, and Gall”. The resulting unhealthy life of a soul that is downcast (think depression).

The fact that unhealthy emotions leads to an unhealthy life is not a shocking realization or brand new information. However, we very rarely take stock or reflection of our emotions so we’re not really paying attention to if what we are feeling is healthy or unhealthy.

The big thing I see in Jeremiah’s confession is the fact that he was stuck on remembering all the bad stuff. This is called RUMINATING.

Rumination is the act of repeatedly discussing or remembering negative events, using negative language, and/or replaying even a mildly negative event in your head that only strengthens the connection in your brain between the experience you are focused on and the negative emotions it evokes in you.

Whether you engage in this negative cycle of ruminating over coffee with your best friend or while sitting in a therapist’s office, the results are the same — your ability to change your situation becomes literally limited.

Christ Has Set Us Free

Galatians 5:1 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.

I don’t believe this is only speaking to the trappings of SIN, but of unhealthy thinking/feeling/living. God wants us to live in freedom and REMAIN FREE to live the life God’s called us to live.

When unhealthy thoughts and emotions rule our lives, Christ is no longer ruling our lives.

I love the way Jeremiah follows up the thought from before. Re-read the above verses and then read these to see how Jeremiah transitioned his unhealthy thoughts and emotions to a HOPE!

Lamentations 3:21-23  Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:. Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fails. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

What can you do today to shift from RUMINATING on all the unhealthy thoughts and emotions in your life and finally get to a place of HOPE? Great is Thy Faithfulness!

Great Is Thy Faithfulness Lyrics

Verse 1
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Verse 3
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Chorus
“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!

The Last Arrow

By Don Gentry


“The Great tragedy that I have witnessed over and over again is that we keep underestimating how much God wants to do in us and through us.  Too many of us have believed the lies we have been told: that we are not good enough, we are not smart enough, we are not talented enough, we are just not enough.  One of the facets of God that makes Him extraordinary is His ability to do the impossible through ordinary, everyday, common people like you and me.  This book has one intention: that whether you win or lose, succeed or fail, live a life of celebrity or anonymity, that when you take your last breath, you will know without reservation that you have given everything you have, everything you are, to the life you have been entrusted with.”  Erwin McManus.

I could end my blog right there.  As we go through our series, Dream Again, this quote sums up what we are trying to awaken in you.  This quote was taken from Erwin’s book The Last Arrow.  I LOVE THIS BOOK!! If you have not read it yet, you should read it during this current series.  Just as this quote (and the rest of his book) reveals, the manner in which God inspires and uses our dreams/lives can be in power or obscurity, wealth or poverty, success or failure, fame or anonymity.  Our role is to discover what God is doing in us and through us!

Later on in the book, Erwin discusses how many dreams are begun by a key leader, but the “dream” must be carried out by “dreamers that are content to walk in obscurity.”  What matters is not which role we play, but have we discovered how God has uniquely equipped us to fulfill the purpose he has for us!

This book and our current series reminds me of one of my elders in my previous church. He literally grew up on the wrong hill in Kentucky.  He lived a life of extreme bullying. For example, each day he had to cross the river rapids on a homemade raft to get to school.  The kids would often sabotage his raft so that he would have to swim the rapids to safety while he was trying to cross (he had many other stories of how he lived on the hill on the other side of the river).  As an old man, he was one of the most humble and wise men I have ever met. He knew the word of God better than most of my M. Div. colleagues, yet he lived in what most would call abject poverty.  As I was eating dinner with him at his house he said, “Donnie, I wasn’t born to money or intelligence. And this world just needs to learn that sometimes we just need to be content with who are and serve God wholly.”  That man lead more people to Christ than I can ever begin to share.  He found his purpose, and it wasn’t what the world would call success.

If you want to be inspired, then read this book!! I will leave you with one other phenomenal quote from Erwin.  “Before you die, live the life you were born to live!”

Why Do We Pray?

By Zack DeBerry


In this series, as we have been talking about Spiritual Disciplines being the key to Getting More from God, it is important to realize that these disciplines are rooted in relationship. Nowhere is that more true than the discipline of prayer. Prayer is one of the things that many of us tend to forget about or only do during a meal or when life brings challenges that become difficult for us to bear. But, the true beauty of prayer is that it is an invitation to communicate and get to know the God of the universe better. That alone should be reason enough to make prayer a part of daily routine, but many people don’t. So, I want to give a few more reasons why Prayer should be an important part of our day.

1.  Prayer Gives Us a Picture of Who God Is. I mean if you want to know about someone you better spend some time not just reading their Facebook posts, but spending time in conversations with them. Many people fail to see prayer as just this kind of interaction between them and God. Many churches have made praying so formal that it has lost it’s relational meaning. I know it sounds weird to say that we get to know God more, but the truth is as we begin to talk and express our love, devotion, need for Him in our lives, He begins to reveal Himself. As we open our hearts and minds to communicate with Him regularly, we are able to see more of His nature.

2.  Prayer Invites God Into Our Mess. When we communicate with God through prayer He already knows our situation, but it allows us the freedom to truly trust Him in the midst of our life. Prayer doesn’t inform God of anything new, but it helps us to know Him and know that He is there with us. Many times this comes as a sense of peace while your are praying; other times your mind may be led to a previous situation or even a passage of scripture. God is all knowing and longs to be involved in what we are going through and prayer is the avenue that releases His love and peace into our lives.

3.  Prayer Allows Us to See Things From God’s Point of View. One of my favorite Psalms is 119. There is so much good instruction for how to follow and obey God. One verse that always stands out to me is verse 18. It reads, “Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.” (NLT) This stands out to me because Psalms is really a collection of prayers and praises to God. When we pray something like verse 18, God will begin to “Open our Eyes” so that we can begin to see things as He does and thus change how we live and interact with those around us.

There are many other benefits to making prayer a daily discipline, but the most important thing to remember is that we have been invited to spend time with God. Can you imagine being invited to an incredible dinner somewhere with someone you always wanted to hang out with and blowing it off to cut your grass? That may seem a bit extreme, but that is how many people approach prayer. They don’t understand the power of the invitation that lies before them in prayer. As individuals and as a church, the greatest thing we can do is spend time in conversation with God. To know Him, to invite Him into our mess, and to gain His perspective as we try to move for Him. I hope that you will begin to accept the invitation and spend some time with God this week in prayer.

Can You Live Your “Best Life” Now?

By Matt Dawson


Joel Osteen (a famous pastor in Texas) wrote a book several years ago called “Your Best Life Now.” To be honest, I still make fun of the title. I’m not a huge fan of SELF-HELP books, programs, and language that give people the impression that it’s all within their own power to change their destiny and experience their BEST LIFE now.

I was wrong about that. You can Live Your Best Life Now.

I’m not entirely wrong, because self-help instruction often negates or ignores God and puts ALL THE WORK on man to shape his destiny. This view is short-sighted and often comes with language like “you do you” or “be the best you you can be” or “find your authentic voice.”

However, I can’t argue that with the proper Biblical foundation of understanding how God has made you and empowered you through His Holy Spirit – YOU CAN live and experience YOUR BEST LIFE NOW!

And in order to do that, it takes an incredible amount of work. It takes DISCIPLINE. It takes commitment to living the way God has called us to live. It takes a proper theological understanding of not only BLESSING, but SUFFERING as well.

So let me rephrase my position by making this statement. A Life Devoted to God through His Spiritual Disciplines Can Experience Your Best Life Now!

Over the next several weeks at Journey, in our series “How to Get MORE from God,” we’re going to be discussing these essential spiritual disciplines. This is not a comprehensive list, but ones that almost everyone can agree are disciplines that directly influence our spiritual growth.

1. Reading God’s Word
There is simply NO WAY to know who God is and what God’s Will is for your life without reading His Word to us. This discipline effects all other disciplines. We can get everything else WRONG if we don’t actually read His Word and understand what He’s saying to us.

2. Prayer
This is our way to commune with God. It’s part mediation, part conversation. It’s talking with a friend, but also approaching our Lord and Savior. It’s thanking, asking, and sharing as well as listening, feeling, and resting. Prayer is essential to our connection to God and for His Holy Spirit to communicate with us.

3. Worship
This is often confused for music, yet music is a tool God gave us to worship. Worship is the celebration (both individually and corporately) of who God is and what He is doing (and has done). We do this anytime we acknowledge God and “pour out our lives” for Him. Many things can be done with a heart of worship including work, play, fellowship, solitude, and all of our other disciplines.

4. Rest (Sabbath)
Probably the most OVERLOOKED and misunderstood discipline is the command to REST. To rest is not necessarily just sleep or vacation, but rest is best described as when we “stop striving” in our own strength and power, and trust in God. God commands us to take ONE DAY of the 7 days He’s given us to sabbath rest. This not only takes discipline and practice, but needs to be done with an understanding of what our focus should be while intentionally resting.

5. Stewardship
We are either good stewards or bad stewards, there is no middle ground. If we fail to recognize that all that we have has been given to us by God, then we will be bad stewards. Stewardship is the discipline of living a generous life with our resources and following in obedience the ideals and instruction given to us (through His Word) on how to manage our money.

6. Evangelism
Also an overlooked discipline is sharing the message of Jesus with our circle of relationships. We call them our TOP 5 at Journey. It’s considered a discipline because sharing our faith with others FUELS US. We tell people that “Leading brings Hope” because evangelism is an act that not only brings the HOPE of Jesus to people who need Him, but also fuels us with HOPE in the process.

I hope you will engage with us for this entire series. It will be challenging, but I have no doubt that for those ready to take on the challenges, they will begin to experience MORE than they could ask or imagine and might begin to experience their Best Life Now!

“Toddler Wins Boston Marathon…” | Spiritual Maturity

By Josh and Bridget Kiser


“Toddler Wins Boston Marathon, Credits Mom’s Reading of ‘Marathon Mouse’”

There’s a headline you’ll NEVER see. Not only that, but it’s a headline that no one would ever EXPECT to see. Why? Well, because we understand that there is a natural process in which a human grows. There is an order of events and patterns of learning that must be completed before we expect a human to be capable of accomplishing certain things. A baby must learn to walk before running, to eat baby food before solids – you get the picture. Every one of us went through this process. Sure, we all progressed at different paces, but the process was pretty much the same. And no one expected any different.

A baby is born into this world with the capability of eventually doing things that humans were designed to do, and with a parent as a guide to help them along through the process. Similarly, a new believer is “reborn” into faith in Jesus with the capability of fully becoming who they were designed to be, for the glory of God, and with the Holy Spirit to guide them along the way. But maturity doesn’t just instantly happen.

Having a knowledge of who God is, what Christ has done for you, and understanding that you have the Holy Spirit in you from the time of salvation does not mean that your journey is over. It should just be the beginning (1Peter 2:2)! Just as we don’t expect a baby to win the Boston Marathon, we also don’t expect a new believer to preach on Sunday while the lead pastor is on vacation or speak to a room of Christian leaders at a national conference. Of course, we want to hear their story, but’s that’s called a testimony. We don’t expect to hear deep theological wisdom in a sermon from someone in spiritual infancy (Hebrews 5:13-14).

Our salvation (eternal life spent with God in the place He has prepared for us) is not earned.  It’s given by Grace, through faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross. With that also comes the ability to be free – the deposit of His Holy Spirit to lead and guide us to true freedom.  However, having the ability to be free and actually being free are two very different things (Ephesians 4:13-14).

Going back to our marathon analogy, the ability to run and running a marathon are many hours, days, and even months of training apart from one another. Freedom REQUIRES something from us.  It comes only when we resolve to partner with the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to work in tandem with our spirit. This partnership means we are trusting him through the process of discovering, dealing with, and healing from the wounds of our past that have shaped our present perceptions, which are indeed the filters through which we view life.

This process is not an easy one… much like the process of becoming a marathon runner. But we were not created to be infants forever – physically or spiritually. My prayer is that we all can rise to the challenge to no longer remain where we are in the process, to desire for more, and to embrace the journey ahead. God designed us for purpose. Let us run the race marked out for us (Hebrews 12:1), and not just run, but finish it well, completing the task given to us (Acts 20:24).

Additional Reading – 2 Peter 1:5-8

Tour Guide Evangelism vs Defense Attorney

By Matt Dawson


I’ve talked with some people who struggle to share Jesus with others, because they just don’t know what to say. This often comes from the false understanding of what evangelism is and what Jesus is really asking us to do. I love illustrations, so when I get the chance to talk with someone who is struggling to know how to share their story – I give them these two illustrations.

Defense Attorney Evangelism

Most believers, at some point in their life, see evangelism as the job of a Defense Attorney. The primary goal is to WIN CASES (SOULS) for the cause of Christ. They are ready and able to debate the hard topics, can answer or spin difficult questions into a compelling argument for faith, and seem steadfast about their ability to convince someone that they are RIGHT. These people seem to be the picture of the GIFT of evangelism. They are well trained, and ready to take on hell with a squirt gun!

However, in my own experience, this view of evangelism does not inspire most believers. 99% of Christians I talk to are fearful to engage in sharing their faith, because they do not see themselves as the Defense Attorney. They don’t know all the answers and don’t want to debate with people. They don’t feel trained enough and therefore choose to let someone else who is more “gifted” do the work. They fear the hard questions, because they themselves are not sure they have the full answers. In the end, they just don’t want to be a Defense Attorney for Jesus.

Tour Guide Evangelism

I believe a more healthy view of sharing our faith story is the picture of a Tour Guide. A gifted Tour Guide knows a great deal about something very specific (city, artifact, national monument). They can share insights that go beyond the surface and can share the backstory of moments in time that lead to a specific event. They often share the highlights of their subject, but they also share the struggles that they endured in their life up to that point. The Tour Guide wants to share the amazing story around their specific topic or subject, and they want to share it with everyone who is interested!

This is what we are called to do with OUR LIVES. No one knows your transformation story like you do. No one is better equipped, trained, or gifted to share with others the deepest, most profound moments of your faith journey. No one else can share the STRUGGLES that you’ve faced in your life and how Jesus has helped you through them. No one else is more qualified to share the mountain tops and valleys of their faith than you!

Take people through your faith journey (like a Tour Guide) and share with them how Jesus has changed YOUR LIFE!

1 Peter 3:15 “…if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.”

Jesus doesn’t need a Defense Attorney. He needs YOU to be a TOUR GUIDE of YOUR LIFE! Don’t hesitate to share the valleys of your faith as often as you share the mountain tops. Don’t try to answer every difficult questions of faith, just the ones you’ve personally encountered and how Jesus has helped you through them.

No matter how long you’ve been a follower of Jesus, you can be the Tour Guide of YOUR LIFE and the LIFE of the One who is changing you from the inside out!

Tweenager???

By Don Gentry


Do you have a tweenager? If you have a tween or are about ready to enter the tween years, you get to experience a new phase of parenting. Depending on your personality, you will either love it or hate it. There is very little in between stage. One minute you are going to think you have done a fantastic job of parenting and your child is the most mature child ever, and then the next moment you are going to wonder what alien just inhabited your child and took over their brain! It is going to be an emotional roller coaster, and I am not talking about your child! Lol

All kidding aside, it is an emotional time for all who are involved. While you don’t have to be a child psychologist, I do think it important to educate yourself on some of the developmental stages of child psychology. If you are visually driven I encourage you to watch the movie Inside Out. It is a fantastic movie based upon what our kids experience.

Navigating this time of life can be difficult if you expect your kids to never disrespect you, never get angry, never have emotional outbursts, never play video games for unreasonable amounts of time, never lose track of time, never…. I think you get my point.

Your child is going through a very intense spiritual, physical, emotional, intellectual, neurological, and social developmental stage. The more you can prepare yourself as a parent the better you are going to weather the stage of tweenhood.

The biggest thing to remember at all stages of parenthood is our kids are blessings from God. It is our privilege to be able to help guide them to a personal relationship with the creator and sustainer of life. You may feel like you want to run from this phase of parenting, but if you can embrace all the changes, you will come out with a much stronger relationship with your child.

If you find yourself struggling, there is help and there is hope! There are those who have gone before you to help you, books, counselors, pastors, youth pastors, children pastors, etc. to help you. And there is hope because it is a short-lived stage of life. I have now had three girls go through this stage of life and while it may have had its moments of exhaustion, it also was a time of incredible spiritual development and relational growth.

We are here to help; remember to love lavishly, guide regularly, listen well, and pray often. You can do it!

The Problem of Sin

By Don Gentry


One of my favorite passages growing up and continues to be to this day is Jeremiah 17:9.

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9

It may be a little weird to think of that as a favorite passage, but allow me to explain. I have always used it as a reminder of who I am and my position in relationship to God if I didn’t have Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

You see, what this passage does for us is helps us to understand the power of sin. The original Hebrew means, “The mind, our intellect, tries to trip us up, our minds are polluted, crooked and corrupt. Our minds are literally incurable.” What that tells me is my own mind tries to deceive me into thinking that my ways are actually “ok.” The power of sin can deceive even my very best intention. Many people think that is depressing. To me it is not depressing at all. It simply keeps me in check.

It reveals to me that I must constantly keep my mind in check with the righteousness of God. How many times have you caught yourself saying, “It wasn’t that bad,” or “I’m not that bad compared to…?” The reality is this – our only comparison should be to the holiness of God. In comparison to His Holiness, we are deplorable even on our best day!! The good news is that the Bible gives us the answer to our demise.

“I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” Jeremiah 17:10

Only God knows the true intentions of our minds. It reminds me of the passage that Paul gives us in Romans.

For in my inner being (mind) I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? hanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. Romans 7:22-25

The power of sin is to deceive us and hold us captive to a law that we don’t really understand. The beauty is that the power of God offers us victory, deliverance, freedom, and grace. We get to choose which one we want to live by. However, we have to start by understanding just how tricky our minds can be. If you ever find yourself justifying sin, trust me that is not God talking to you. Hope to see you Sunday as we continue to uncover the richness of all that God has come to do in our lives!