“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!

The Fullness of Grace and Truth

By Matt Dawson


Are we called to share GRACE with people, or the TRUTH? Sometimes these two ideals seem like polar opposites that demand we fully commit to one or the other. Some people strive to balance them out, with a little bit of truth and a touch of grace, but feel that it’s still ineffective.

Here is one of my favorite verses in the gospel of John.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 (NIV)

I have always been the firm believer that when Paul tells us to “imitate Christ” (Ephesians 5:1) he is asking us to be FULL of BOTH Grace and Truth.

Jesus never shied away from telling people the truth. He told them they were sick and needed saving. He told them to stop sinning.  He told them that even a lustful thought is a sin – even if you don’t do anything with that thought.  He told them God hates divorce. He told them that marriage was when a man was joined with his wife as one.  He told them that He was the ONLY WAY to God.

Jesus ALSO told them He loved them. He told them that if they followed Him, He would give them life to the full.  He told them whoever understood how much they were loved and forgiven, would give away that love and forgiveness fully. He told them that generational sin wouldn’t stop the healing of God through Jesus. He told them that even though He had to go away, He would send another in His place that would allow them to do even greater things.

The FULLNESS of Grace and Truth is not a balance or compromise of these two ideals.  It is both of them in it’s fullness.

This tension that exists between speaking the truth in love and loving people unconditionally (grace) is more powerful than choosing one over the other.

Jesus put this FULLNESS of Grace and Truth on display in the temple courts one day.  The religious leaders drug a woman to the temple courts to stand trial for being “caught in the act of adultery” and brought her to Jesus. Here’s what happened.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
“No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” John 8:4-11

The woman was guilty, without a shadow of a doubt. Jesus told her to go and sin no more. TRUTH. But he also challenged those who were quick to want to cast judgement to consider that judgement on themselves first. When there was no one left to condemn, Jesus told her He would not condemn her either. GRACE.

For the remainder of my life, the fullness of Grace and Truth will be one of the most difficult things to experience. Most of the time I lean heavily towards GRACE.  I understand and value the importance of Truth but if I’m going to be wrong in how I handle a situation, I’m going to be wrong on the side of Grace. However, I’m striving to be the FULLNESS OF BOTH.

Absolute Truth and Unmerited Grace = A Faith Worth Sharing.

The Supernatural Gifts (of the Holy Spirit)

By Matt Dawson


There was this awesome little book that came out in January of this year called “Gifted:Unleash the Power Within” by a brilliant young author (yes, the joke is intended)…if you haven’t read it yet – you can purchase a copy in the lobby or online!

When I talk to folks about the Spiritual Gifts, 99% of them go straight to their confusion, misunderstanding, or outright rejection/acceptance of the supernatural gifts (or manifestation gifts) written about in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10.

“To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wisdom; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge. The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said.” (1 Corinthians 12:8-10 NLT)

Wisdom, Special Knowledge, Faith, Healing, Miracles, Prophecy, Distinguishing Between Spirits (Discernment), Tongues, Interpretation of Tongues.

Paul continues this conversation in chapter 14 around the 2 gifts that the church in Corinth had trouble with as well (Prophecy and Tongues).

Why are these “supernatural” gifts so hard to understand?

Let me give you 3 reasons that I believe why we struggle with these 9 supernatural gifts given to us through the Holy Spirit.

1. We Don’t Have Spiritual Awareness in The West.
One of the greatest benefits to modern western culture is our ability to think critically. We are taught from a very young age to logically analyze, process, and critically challenge our own thoughts and actions. This is something that is not all that common in the rest of the world. However, the rest of the world is highly attune to supernatural and spiritual manifestations, while we in western culture have all but full removed them from our existence.

This makes understanding the spiritual and supernatural a greater challenge for us. We read scriptures and hear testimonies of miracles, divine intervention, and healing but it all seems suspect to our minds. It all seems like a fairy tale or something that only happens on a fictional middle earth. Or we see the abuse of these gifts being used for fame & profit (healing revivals, prosperity gospel) and witness gifts like tongues in a group of babbling believers that looks more like chaos than worship.

All spiritual gifts are supernatural, however these 9 gifts not only occur when the Holy Spirit resides in us, they “manifest” themselves supernaturally in our lives. The more we can train ourselves to become spiritually aware (read Don’s book “Sixth Sense”) the more we will see and experience these gifts.

2. Supernatural = Evil.
Because of the exploitation of our Enemy’s power in our modern culture, most of us were raised (outside of superhero comics) to relate the supernatural to that of demons, evil spirits, and ghosts. From tales of witches to modern day paranormal activity, we as a modern culture entertain ourselves with negative examples of supernatural power and therefore have a difficult time seeing anything supernatural in a positive light.

If God were to supernaturally use your hands on someone to heal them right before your eyes, most of us would be personally filled with fear and bewilderment rather than awe and wonder of our God who has answered our prayers so miraculously!

3. Loss of Control (Fear).
One of the reasons many churches and denominations simply do not teach or encourage the use of supernatural gifts is the loss of control it represents. All religions are based on an organization system of control – including most evangelical churches. We embrace what we can control and activate – we shy away from or denounce what is mysterious and outside of our ability to control it. Such is the gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit. We embrace faith and wisdom, but fear the rest because they don’t easily fit within the context of our church programming.

If you ask God to “move” in your life – then expect it to be supernatural and outside of your control or ability to control it. Discernment is needed because many will use mysticism as a way to engage the spiritual without being led by the Holy Spirit. However believers should NEVER fear the work of the Holy Spirit through those who are mature in living out of their spiritual gifts!

STUDY THE GIFTS
Studying these gifts are essential to every believers journey as they continue to grow in maturity in Christ. I also believe every single person has at least one manifestation gift in their mix of gifts given to them by the Trinity. God desires to supernaturally work through you, but you cannot experience this or live in the power of the Holy Spirt if you relate to the struggle listed above.

Confess to God where you personally struggle the most with understanding the spiritual/supernatural. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you and to help you address these issues so that you can continue to grow and mature in your walk with Jesus!

What Do You Expect Out of Prayer?

By Don Gentry


When we pray we often ask God for things that we want or make suggestions about how we think it would best for Him to answer our prayers. Let me challenge you to think about your prayer and dependence upon the Holy Spirit in a little differently.

To get everything that we can out of following God, God must have your complete surrender, your complete obedience.

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Hebrews 12:7-13

I love this passage. To get all that we can out of being a Christ follower and be in tune with the Holy Spirit we must embrace this passage. Did you notice this phrase in the passage you read? It said, “How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits.”

Do you get it? The Holy Spirit is trying to get us to come into complete surrender to God. I used to think complete surrender was done through discipline, like hard work and discipline; rather, it is done through trust in God’s discipline. There is no discipline that seems pleasant, but when you can finally start embracing your discipline instead of fighting it, your life is going to radically change. God is going to allow you to face your fears as many times as He needs to until you learn to trust that His promises are true for you. Your fear is different than mine. But His promises are just as true for you as they are for Mother Teresa or me.

Once we learn to identify complete trust, we can identify our fears and apply God’s word more quickly. The Israelites spent years driving out their enemies from their lands. Over and over again, God tested their trust with His promises that He would be their deliverer—not their efforts.

This is the beauty of the Holy Spirit. He knows exactly what your spirit—your sixth sense—needs to go through to come into true surrender. The Holy Spirit has been walking with you and guiding you all the way to this point. He knows you intimately. He has traveled with you through every vile and evil thought you have ever had, and He has seen you in your most humble and righteous moments as well. He has been with you every step of the way, and He knows exactly how deeply rooted your pride, arrogance, lust, bitterness, anger, gluttony, or your ______ really is.

The beauty of prayer allows us to completely surrender to what the Holy Spirit is trying to say to us. I will suggest that if you aren’t getting answers to prayer, then there is a strong chance you are not regularly setting aside time to read the Word of God. The Holy Spirit speaks to us through the Scriptures! If you are reading the word and not getting answers, then that is another blog. Hope to see you all Sunday as we continue to discover all that the Holy Spirit has in store for our lives!

Is There Hope for My Messed Up Teenager?

By Zack DeBerry

As a parent now I have a different point of view when it comes to life.  I must confess that I was a “mess” as a teenager.  As I have grown older and now a parent I realize the struggles and pains I probably caused for my parents as a teenager.  I look back now and am amazed that they stuck by me and never lost hope for what they knew they had taught me about life and the love of God.  Many parents of teenagers probably find themselves in situations that they maybe never saw coming or more realistically never hoped would come.  What I have learned in my short time on earth and even shorter time as a parent is that you can’t control everything.

As much as we want to dictate and control the things our kids get into and who they get involved with, a lot of the time these things tend to get beyond our control.  There is that period where our children begin to gain independence and they begin to make choices for themselves. It is the most frightening part of parenting to me. But, in those moments where I may lose hope, or be totally freaked out and even angry at some of the choices they make, I have to remember that I was just like them. I made poor choices and bad decisions. I suffered some consequences that could have easily been avoided. I think the key when it comes to all of this is to really release them to God and trust that HE has a better plan than we could muster up if they were completely under our control all the time.

In my case, I am grateful for parents that were firm, but fair. They were obviously upset with my choices, more times than I can write about in this blog, but I can honestly say that they had Faith that God was bigger than my attitude and choices in life. My mom was a praying woman and my dad was a firm believer that the Bible was true and powerful. As cliche as it sounds they definitely represented the scripture found in Proverbs 22:6 that says, ““Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.”

I love that word “Direct” that is used in this version. There is a difference in directing and dictating. I think a lot of the disconnect in parents and children sometimes come when we become dictators rather than directors. Dictators create either clones who can’t survive on their own or rebels who will do anything to be the opposite of what they see. Directors offer insights and advice, but allow for others to interpret and find their way in the process. Just as we talk about Guardrails in our life I think it’s important as parents to set some guardrails around how we will interact with our children. I truly believe that if we can be people who trust God to be who says He is and to do what He says, He can change our attitudes as parents to be directors rather than dictators.

The question we always ask and want an answer to in those moments of crisis and teenage angst is really about Hope. Is there any hope for him or her? Have they totally blown it? Will they ever come back to church? How could they forget what they know is right? The truth is there are no easy answers for those questions, but take it from one Messed Up Teenager that with Prayer, Faith and Direction there is Hope. I am still not perfect, but I know that I am secure in my relationship with Christ, and I have my parents to thank for that. As a parent now I pray that I can offer direction and truly trust God to do what only He can in my children’s life, even in the darkest of times.


Guardrails Series Preview

By Matt Dawson


I’m excited about the upcoming series at Journey entitled “Guardrails”.

We all know what Guardrails are: They are a system designed to keep vehicles from straying into dangerous or off-limit areas (bridges, medians, curves).

They primarily do two things. They DIRECT us and they PROTECT us.

We believe as followers of Christ that God gave us wonderful wisdom and guidance on GUARDRAILS FOR OUR LIVES. Throughout scripture God reveals WARNINGS and WISDOM to help us create our own personal guardrails to keep us from straying off course or derailing our lives completely. Whenever we HIT these self-imposed guardrails we reduce the damage that could potentially happen in our lives without them.

Everyone needs Guardrails.

However, we live in a culture where having personal guardrails (self imposed disciplines) is criticized and viewed as unnecessary religious dogma. Our culture sells us the lie that all we really need is GUIDELINES to give us suggestions and warnings, yet has no problem judging those who have affairs, go bankrupt, drive inebriated, or struggle with addictions.

Think about it… OUR GREATEST REGRETS could have been avoided if we would have had personal, moral, financial, or professional guardrails in our lives!

Join us for the next several weeks at Journey Church as we spend time looking at the importance of “Guardrails” in our lives.

3 Ways to Share Your Faith

By Zack DeBerry


As we continue to talk through what it means to share your faith in our world, I am reminded of what the verse 1 Peter 3:15 says, “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.” (NLT) I think this is a great verse to rest in for 2 reasons. First, it reveals that our life begins and ends in the worship and service of Jesus Christ. Secondly, it challenges us to be prepared to explain why a life that is rooted in Jesus Christ gives us an overwhelming sense of hope in this life. As followers of Christ it is not only important to live a life that is rooted in Christ, but it is our call in this world to share the reason for our hope with those who need to experience it in their lives. Here are 3 Simple Ways that we can share the faith that we have in Jesus Christ with others.

1. Live It before you Speak It.
It can be said that people watch what you do before they ever listen to what you say. As someone who proclaims a faith and a hope in Jesus Christ, it is important to realize that people will watch how I treat my family, friends and the world, long before they give any thought to what I might have to say about Jesus Christ. One of the easiest ways to share your Story is to Live a Life that would make them wonder how you have the hope and joy that you do in this life.

2. Start with Those Close to You.
We call this our “Top 5” at Journey. What we mean is that if we are to really have the opportunities to share our story in this life, it will most likely be with someone that you are already close to. Whether it’s family, neighbor, co-worker, gym member, or whoever it is, there is a greater chance they will listen to your story because you are already personally invested in their life. I am convinced that the closer we are to folks the greater the impact our story can have on their life for the Kingdom of God.

3. Keep It Real
When it comes to sharing your story you have to be careful not to over spiritualize things. There is great value in just being yourself and allowing people to see the fact that you may not have it all together, but the Hope you have is not in yourself, but in Jesus Christ. People are given “Real-Life” everywhere now, from social media to reality tv, so it is only natural for them to see Real People living a life of Faith. It is our responsibility to be honest and real, even if it means they see some of our faults and imperfections. When people see the real you it allows them to share their struggles too.

It isn’t easy to share your story, but that is our call as followers of Jesus Christ. If we can become people that live a life worth sharing, continually invest in the lives of those close to us, and dare to be real with people, it will give us opportunities to share the Hope that we have in Jesus Christ.