Weekend Preview | First Things First: Part 1

By Matt Dawson

I clearly remember one Christmas Eve, pouring sweat at 1:30am as I spent 2.5 hours putting a HUGE toy together. All so that our children would arise on Christmas morning with the beautiful illusion that some bearded man in red suit broke into our home in the night with fully constructed toys for all the good girls and boys (don’t judge me, it’s tradition).

WHY did I spend 2.5 hours on 1 toy, you ask? Because I had to put it together 3 times! The first 2 times, I didn’t follow the instructions (because I’m a man!) and missed the some of the first few steps in putting it together! On the 3rd attempt, while trying not to cuss (or cuss too loudly to wake the children), out came the instruction booklet and I followed the plan… STEP 1, STEP 2, and so on. It should have only taken me 20 minutes to put it together if I had only followed those first few steps.

The reality is, when we skip the first few steps to anything that has a plan or design, we often make a mess of everything.

Our lives have a plan, a purpose, and a POINT to them. God has a plan for us that includes making sure that FIRST THINGS COME FIRST. When we follow the priorities that God gives us, everything works better. We are then able to reach our full potential. Without the right priorities, we often make a mess of everything that matters most!

This Sunday, we will kick off a BRAND NEW series entitled “First Things First; Prioritize Your Life.” We will spend the next few weeks discussing how God designed some of our most precious resources to use for His purposes and when we follow those steps, everything in our lives works better. It’s time to prioritize our lives!

This is a GREAT opportunity to INVITE A FRIEND (someone from your Top 5) to join you this weekend at Journey Church!

The Top 5 Takeaways From My Sabbatical

By Matt Dawson

In case there are some people in our church who missed the memo over this past summer, I recently partook in an 9 week Sabbatical and spent my 10th week (transitional week) participating on our Journey GO trip to Peru!

As with most of my content, I struggle to be brief. I would love to have coffee and spend a few hours with each and every one of you to share what an amazing time this sabbatical has been for me (and for my family) but that’s just not possible.

However, at our Partner Night on Thursday August 18th, I will be sharing in more details some specifics from my time away and how I believe it has impacted my heart for the mission and ministry of Journey Church!

Here are the TOP 5 Takeaways from My Sabbatical:

1) I’m Overwhelmed with Gratitude in God’s Plan. Leading Journey Church was never something I had planned to do. The God ordained movements and opportunities that facilitated my leadership here were the last things I expected, but am overwhelmingly grateful for them. I’m so grateful to not only be a part of this Journey family, but to also lead our amazing leaders as we walk towards the future God has for us! I’m still shocked sometimes that He decides to use me and my leadership for His purposes – and I never want to take for granted the call He’s placed on my life.

Romans 8:28  “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”

2) It had been a LONG TIME since I had STOPPED. There was a special moment for me during a specific week when I took a solitude retreat up to a lake in Tennessee. Six days of little to no interaction with people was a challenge (as a hyper-extravert, I was not looking forward to it). I went with many specific prayers, tons of ideas, and an agenda that I wanted God to sign off on however, I didn’t get anything that I wanted. What I did get was SO MUCH BETTER. Reading several books, prayer walks, time on the lake in my kayak, and just resting on the back porch was a time where I become completely still. All I could think about was how loved I was by God that He just wanted me to STOP and REST in Him. Psalm 46:10 “Be Still and Know that I am God…” This verse came to life that week like it had never done before.

From my Journal on June 22nd – “Sometimes Rest is Enough…”

3) I LOVE & ENJOY my Family, Friends, and Staff. One of the things that came alive for me was the time I got to spend with my family, my friends, and my staff. You all know that I LOVE my family – but I also REALLY ENJOY the life we are living right now. Doing life with my bride & my kids on a short break from Journey allowed me to see that our lives are complete with God at the center (not the church at the center). I also had time to spend with my friends (some of whom are also on staff). They weren’t allowed to talk about ministry or church with me…but that didn’t matter. My friends and my staff are not simply a means to an end to have a life group or co-workers in ministry. I really do LOVE & ENJOY them because they are amazing people and they love me and my family well. I came away feeling incredibly blessed by God for the many healthy friendships I have in my life!

Never take healthy relationships for granted… they are God ordained and fuel for the soul!

4) There is always MORE to Experience with God. I had the opportunity to spend 8 days traveling to 5 different churches across the US. I can’t believe how encouraging it was to visit with pastors and ministry leaders who are doing some of the same things we are doing or will be doing more of in the future and share EXPERIENCES of how GREAT our GOD REALLY IS! On this trip, I also had the opportunity to see several things for the first time and those experiences were beyond my ability to recount in words at this time. Even when I wasn’t meeting with a church and just driving across a state for the first time – God continued to meet me in those moments and make those experiences SO MUCH MORE.

“In our relationship with God, the further we go… the more Beautiful it gets!” – Scott Worley

5) The FUTURE is BIGGER than we can imagine. During the last 3 weeks of my sabbatical, I began to start seeing answers to some of my prayers that I entered my sabbatical time with. I’ve never had a shortage of ideas for the future of our church and the LKN region, and I love to dream BIG DREAMS. However, the longer these dreams have stayed with me, the more I feel God shaping them into the future of our church. Even when I exhausted all my imagination and felt confirmed that we are on the right track… I kept hearing God say “Matt… it’s even bigger than that!” To be honest, this response from God to these dreams brought momentary feelings of fear and anxiety (it’s natural). However, they quickly changed to excitement, joy, and a passionate fire for the challenges ahead and how we as a church are going to continue “Humbly point Everyone to absolute Hope” over the next 15 years!

When our memories exceed our dreams, the end is near. However, I still believe the BEST is YET TO COME!

There’s so much more to tell you, and I can’t wait to share these moments with you over the next few months as we reconnect. Don’t forget to make plans to be at Partner Night on Thursday, August 18th at 6:30pm where I will share more about my time away and how I feel it’s going to impact our amazing church and bring Hope to LKN.

Weekend Preview | Read Your Bible: James – Part 1

By David McNeely

Missouri’s nickname is The Show Me State. Many stories claim the origins of the slogan, but the one most widely known credits a Missouri U.S. Congressman named Willard Duncan Vandiver. During an 1899 speech in Philadelphia he said, “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.”

The book of James could be the Missouri book of the New Testament. In essence, James reminds the readers that the world is looking at the church and says, “frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies our curiosity about this new Christian religion. You have got to show me.” Following Jesus isn’t about saying one follows Jesus. It’s about actually following Jesus. And God radically changes the lives of the followers of Jesus.

James is the half-brother of Jesus and one of the leaders of the early church in Jerusalem. He was martyred in A.D. 62 and probably wrote this letter to a persecuted church in the late 40’s; making James one of the oldest books written in the New Testament. James quotes Jesus more times per page than any other NT book.

Interestingly, the book of James was viewed with suspicion by a few of the church fathers. They did not see it worthy of being a part of the sacred scriptures. Martin Luther said it was, “a right strawy epistle.” He said this because he thought the book was weak on the doctrine of justification by faith. It isn’t. It is simply looking at what faith produces. It shows what happens as a result of genuine faith.

The book of James is clear, concise, efficient, practical, and memorable. It has been a favorite book of many Christians throughout the centuries. He pulls no punches, uses many metaphors and illustrations, and hits on subjects such as trials, wisdom, favoritism, controlling the tongue, and prayer. This book is one of the most read, quoted, and memorized books in all of the scriptures.

Over the next few weeks we’ll look at each chapter, and you’ll see how every paragraph meets us right where we are. This book is a teacher’s dream. It is written like a sermon ought to be preached. For all these reasons and more I’ll bet you’ll find this book to be unforgettable Monday through Saturday. And that’s the goal. We want us all to “Read Your Bible.”

Use your guide to read and meditate on God’s Word. Pray that each week the Holy Spirit would enable you to come, look up, listen, and respond. In the first chapter James wrote this, “17 Every good and perfect gift is from above.” What a gift the book of James is to God’s people. God has spoken … He is speaking … and He will speak to us through this book.

See you on Sunday!

Weekend Preview | What Motivates Sin? Part 3- Wicked

By Don Gentry

Christians have a sin problem. We spend most of our life trying to see how close we can get to sin and remain a Christian. It is a horrible way to honor God for the sacrifice that he made. Christ came that he might deliver us from sin! We make a mockery of his sacrifice when we continue to live in the sin that he died to save us from. No wonder the world calls Christians a bunch of hypocrites. We don’t live by what we say we believe. We hold our “get out of Hell card” as if that is what Christ died for, instead of “This is the way to life card” that he gave us access to.

There is a book (other than the Bible) that really changed my life and has helped to guide my passion for Christ. It is The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges. It is a phenomenal book. As we take a look at what motivates sin, I want to reveal that the answer to our sin problem is Holiness. This is a quote from Pursuit of Holiness page 96:

Can you imagine a soldier going into battle with the aim of ‘not getting hit very much?’ The very suggestion is ridiculous. His aim is not to get hit at all! Yet if we have not made a commitment to holiness without exception, we are like a soldier going into battle with the aim of not getting hit very much. We can be sure if that is our aim, we will be hit—not with bullets, but with temptation over and over again.

Jonathan Edwards, one of the great preachers of early American history, used to make resolutions. One of his was, ‘Resolved, never to do anything which I would be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.’ Dare we 20th century Christians make such a resolution? Are we willing to commit ourselves to the practice of holiness without exceptions? There is no point in praying for victory over temptation if we are not willing to make a commitment to say no to it.”

I don’t know about you, but when I read that I am convicted. Over the years I have spent in ministry, my biggest frustration with those who call themselves followers of Christ isn’t their hypocrisy, but their lack of acknowledgement that we can even do what Christ has called us to do.

15But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, 16for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 17Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives in reverent fear during your temporary stay on earth. I Peter 1:15-17.

The answer to our sin problem does not lie in trying to fix our sin, instead it is our reliance upon His holiness. Join me Sunday as we continue our conversation on sin!

How Our Weaknesses Can Make Us Strong

By Ryan Weber

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in my weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7b-10 NIV).

My favorite people in the Bible are David and Peter. According to the Bible, David was a man after God’s own heart and Peter was the rock upon which the church would be built. But that’s only a small reason why I love them so much. They’re my favorite because David was an adulterer and murderer, and Peter was brash with his words and denied even knowing Jesus.

And the Bible still says that David was a man after God’s own heart and that Peter is still the rock upon which the church is built. There is no addendum to those statements, saying they would have been this had it not been for the fact that they were idiots.

Nope. That’s why they’re my favorite. Because they’re just like me. An idiot. Weak. Sinful. We know we are weak. So what do we do with that?

• Be Authentic About Your Weakness

We used to live in an age where you demonstrated your power by hiding your weakness. If you wanted to gain the respect of your colleagues as a leader, you could not own up to the fact that you committed mistakes; you couldn’t be human. That has totally changed today. You gain respect by admitting your weaknesses, by owning your mistakes and then taking responsibility for them and getting back up when you fall. Bono from U2 once said, “My heroes are the ones who survived doing it wrong, who made mistakes, but recovered from them.”

Everyone knows you mess up, so do us all a favor and stop pretending that you don’t. We become closer as a body of local believers when our church exists not as a hotel for saints, but a hospital for sinners. That’s what makes a church great, because we exist and subsist through weakness and reliance on the strength of God to empower our actions.

• Try to understand the power of Jesus within your weakness

Great things come from difficulty; in fact I would venture to say everything that is not born innately great has to go through adversity to find their way there. Precious metals have to be refined, lasagna has to go in a fiery oven to taste good, a football team needs grueling practice and games to prove its greatness, the writer needs to go through writer’s block to write anything worthwhile (case and point: me right now!).

If you’re not born great, you need trials to get you there.

And that is all of us, none of us are innately great. And life is difficult, praise the Lord. If it isn’t or hasn’t been difficult for you, it probably means two things: you were born perfect (not likely), or God isn’t taking the time to develop you (again… unlikely).

I find it interesting that in James 1, the only thing that the Bible says about what the testing of your faith will produce is perseverance (not more faith, not deliverance, not strength… just perseverance, the ability to keep going, to get up, to rise again). Romans 5 tells us that through perseverance character is revealed and character produces hope. And hope points to our complete trust in the work of Christ to finish His work in and through us. And this is what sets Christians apart from anybody else. We have hope. When adversity kills everyone else, it blooms us.

It blooms us because it magnifies the finished work of Jesus on the cross. It exalts His victory over every sin, every weakness, every idiotic thought and action I will ever commit for the rest of my life.

Did Paul boast in his weaknesses because he was a spiritual masochist, in love with a denigrated and hopeless picture of himself? No, he was in love with what Christ had done for him. In the middle of a zealous rage to kill and arrest Christians, Jesus encountered Paul and forever transformed his entire life and trajectory. Jesus didn’t appear when Paul was at his strongest, he appeared when he was at his weakest. A point of murderous rage. That’s where Jesus injects Himself: at your weakest point to prove His strength over the darkest areas of your life.

Paul knew this first hand:

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NIV).

Weekend Preview | Why Can I Trust The Bible? Part 3

By Zack DeBerry

I don’t know about you, but one of the questions that I sometimes hear and even have to answer for myself revolves around the usefulness of the Bible in everyday life. We have talked about the Bible in terms of history and reliability, but just how useful is it on a daily basis?

This is the very question that we will be addressing this Sunday at Journey as we close our “Why I Can Trust The Bible” series. We hope that you will see why the Bible is timeless and culturally relevant to all people in all places. The Bible is a text that has survived for thousands of years and still remains relevant to our lives today.

This week, we will talk about why we believe you can trust the Bible to have answers for whatever you are facing in your day to day life. Join us at our Huntersville campus at 9AM or 11AM or catch us live online at 11AM.

What Are Apologetics & Why Should You Care?

By Zack DeBerry

As we talk about why we can trust the Bible, it is important to know that much of history is written about in the texts of the Bible. However, just as much that is revealed in the text, there are still many things that are open to interpretation. It is in this interpretation that some people may be led to believe things that aren’t always true. Whether they get their information from the latest Bible series on network television or just trust the first blog that appears after a Google search, people will always have questions about the things that aren’t addressed in the Bible.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to always be ready to give an answer as to why we believe what we believe. We see this in 1 Peter 3:15 where Peter writes, “And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.”  What Peter is referring to here is a word we call Apologetics.

Apologetics is a term that can take on a life of its own at times, but essentially Apologetics is defined as a reason or reasons why you believe what you believe. That’s what Peter urges all of us to do in the above verse. Some folks may think that Apologetics are best left to the “Professional Christians,” but it’s my belief that we should ALL know what Apologetics means and why it should be important.

Here are a few reasons why I think Apologetics should matter to us ALL:

1. People Have Questions

This should be motivation enough for us to care about Apologetics and be ready to give a reason for why we believe and have the hope that we do in Jesus. I know that it can be daunting to feel like you have to have an answer for every question. The truth is that you may not have all the facts and information about a literal 6 day creation theory, but you should be able to tell someone WHY you believe what you do. That is the first step in helping answer someone’s question. Give them a reason to continue to seek the answers they need. Tell them why you believe.

2. Bad Information is Everywhere.

It’s cool to see that Bible stories and themes have made it into mainstream media, but we must make sure that we realize there could be some creative liberties taken at times. As a follower of Jesus Christ, we must have enough knowledge of Biblical events to be able to offer correction where it is needed when Hollywood gets it wrong. There are many people who will trust what they see on television or read in a book as the truth, even when it isn’t factually correct. When we take Apologetics seriously it allows us to enter into conversations that are created by various entertainment outlets and present the truth of the Gospel.

3. The Future

Apologetics isn’t just for you, it’s for the future. What I mean by that is, as a father of 3 children my kids need me to know why I believe and to be able to answer questions that they have about faith as they come up. We must take ownership for how our families view the Bible and the world. Caring about Apologetics means that I care enough to be ready to give an answer when the questions come, and they will come.

These are just a few of the reasons why I care about Apologetics and think it’s important for everyone. Ultimately, we must be ready to provide answers when questions arise. 1 Peter 3:15 gives us an all call to become Apologists, but I think it is important to read the first few words of verse 16 as well. Peter goes on to say this: “But do this in a gentle and respectful way.” This may be the most important piece of advice when it comes to Apologetics.

Our job is not to convince everyone by drawing lines in the sand, but to be ready to give them our WHY. When we move Apologetics from telling our stories and reasons to creating a staunch defense we will lose the intent of what Peter calls us to do.