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!

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!

Series Preview – Dream Again

By Matt Dawson


‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. Act 2:17

The most recurring dream I had as a child was that I was Superman…not the adult version, just me dressed in the costume at my school, hanging with my friends, with all his powers – ready to be awesome at a moment’s notice. Anything was possible.

As an adult, I still have dreams. My dreams are different now (although, I admit, I still return to my Superman dreams every once in a while). My dreams often have to do with my family, life, or church and sometimes they entertain one of the thousand “what if” questions that fill my mind.

What if someone broke into my home?
What if someone gave me a million dollars tomorrow…what would change, what would stay the same?
What if Journey’s next building had a community center, co-op working space, pre-school, athletic gyms, and a Chick-Fil-A?
What if turtles could fly?
What if I’m dreaming right now in this dream?

I believe that when we lose the ability to dream, we lose our HOPE for the future. We stop EXPECTING that God has MORE (so much more) in store for our lives, our church, and our cities!

We begin to settle and dreams are replaced with details. Routines take over and our minds are filled with thoughts of limitations. We lose our purpose and we have little desire that goes beyond our immediate need for comfort.

However, in our deepest places we know we were made for MORE. Something in us that longs for a life of significance instead of survival.

We CAN discover what’s been LOST.

We CAN restore what’s been DIMINISHED in our hearts.

We CAN begin to DREAM AGAIN!

The future of the western church lies in the prophecy of what Peter declared would be fulfilled within the church in the last days. When God pours out His Spirit on us we would see and prophesy the TRUTH of God, our visions would bring PURPOSE to our lives, and our dreams would be fueled by the ABSOLUTE HOPE of Jesus Christ!

I hope you will join us for all three weekends of our newest series entitled “Dream Again” at Journey Church. It’s a great series to invite a friend to join you as we challenge ourselves to “experience immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine by His power at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)

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!

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!

The Journey Online Podcast | The Romans Controversy with Zack DeBerry and Matt Dawson

In this episode, Zack DeBerry sits down with Matt Dawson to talk about some of the controversial subjects that come up in the Book of Romans (from our Read Your Bible series).

The Journey Online Podcast

 


The Journey Online Podcast | The Romans Controversy with Zack DeBerry and Matt Dawson

 

(RSS – Click Here to Listen)

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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!