JANUARY 2020

January 8, 2020

 

I’ve been thinking about how vital meaningful conversations are.  I think that learning to truly listen to one another is crucial in families, with friends, in church, and in our culture, if our relationships are to be healthy and what God intends.

 

Having meaningful conversations is something that can be learned, and with focus and practice, we can all become better at it.  Here are suggestions to help engage in meaningful conversations:

 

1.  Make it about the other person.

Don’t talk endlessly about something that the other person isn’t really interested in.  That leaves the other person with the impression that you’re having a conversation with yourself, and they just happen to be there.  Don’t be oblivious.  Be sensitive to their needs.  The best conversations begin with showing an interest in the other person, their world, and what they might be interested in. 

 

2.  Ask good questions.

Ask open-ended question that do not expect a “yes” or “no” answer”.  Ask questions about feelings as well as about facts or thoughts.

 

2.  Practice active listening

Don’t just think about what you want to say next while someone else is speaking.  Listen so that you might be able to repeat back to the other person in summary form what they said to you.

 

3. Intentionally move conversations to a deeper level.

Take a risk.  Be vulnerable.  Share on a deeper level yourself so the other person may be open to do the same.

 

4.  Consider place and time.

Places that are noisy with a lot of people around are not the best places to engage in meaningful conversations which require a relaxed pace and an atmosphere free of distractions.  If people are really tired, that’s not really a great time for a significant conversation.

 

This year I hope we will all challenge ourselves to engage in more meaningful conversations.  It may surprise us what a difference that will make in our relationships.

 

-Michael


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January 27, 2020

 

I am Sam.  Sam I am.  That Sam I am, that Sam I am, I do not like that Sam I am.” 

 

And so begins my son’s favorite story book, “Green Eggs and Ham.”  If you’re unfamiliar with the Dr. Seuss classic or it’s been a while, let me recap the plot for you.  Sam is convinced the other character in the story will like green eggs and ham if only he will try them.  Sam suggests various ways the other character might try the green eggs and ham.  For instance, he asks him, would you try them in a house? With a mouse? On a train? Or in the rain?  The list is exhaustive of all the different ways Sam tries to get the character to try green eggs and ham.  Finally, the character gets so worn down from Sam asking him to try the dish that he says, “If you will let me be, I will try them.  You will see.” So, he tries the green eggs and ham and, lo and behold, he discovers just how good they are.

 

One evening as I finished reading this story to my son, Ryan, I was struck by something I had never considered before.  What if I was half as persistent as Sam was when it comes to sharing my faith?  What impact would that make?  What if I never gave up on my family and friends, until they tasted and saw that the Lord is good?  What would my family look like?  What would my community look like?  What new faces would be around me as I worshipped on Sunday morning?

 

I may not agree with all of Sam’s tactics, but you have to give him props for being consistent and persistent.  May we all persevere and continue to share our faith with others until all come to know the goodness of Jesus as Rescuer and Lord.

 

-Jackie

FEBRUARY 2020

February 5, 2020

I am grateful, truly grateful to God.  I am grateful that for eight days I was beside my mom’s bed around the clock.  I am grateful that on Saturday I had the holy experience of sitting by her with one of my hands on her arm as she took her last breath and passed away.  I am grateful that she was experiencing no pain or anxiety.  I am grateful she did not struggle at all. 

 

I am grateful that over a dozen of the nuns in the care facility where she lived encircled her bed and sang hymns to her and recited scripture to her and repeatedly prayed the Lord’s Prayer over her as she gently passed from this life into the eternal love of God. 

 

I am grateful I was able with my other hand to hold my daughter’s hand as my mom passed.  I am grateful that because of our faith we do not face death with fear but with hope.

 

I am grateful for the genuinely loving Journey Church family.  I am grateful that I have the privilege of serving with you.

 

I am grateful that God’s love never fails.  We may fail, but God’s love never fails.  I am grateful for that, and I take hope in that.

 

-Michael

 

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February 19, 2020

 

Grief after grief can come our way.  I am contemplating this today as my wife Debbie has learned that her father has been taken to the hospital with congestive heart failure.

 

I took several hours this past weekend to reflect on the passing of my mom and on her life and on the relationship we shared.  I want very much to grieve in a healthy, Godly way and have no regrets.

 

I have been considering how we may experience grief.   There is anticipatory grief in which we grieve a loss that we know beforehand is coming and which we have some time to prepare ourselves for.  There is also bereavement grief in which we grieve after a loss that we may have known was coming or we may not have known.

 

Whether we grieve with anticipatory grief or bereavement grief, God wants us to grieve well, because if we do not grieve well, over time it will affect us negatively spiritually, emotionally and physically. 

 

I’ve come to understand that if we deny our need to grieve losses, we are failing to faithfully follow Jesus, because even he wept when he experienced anticipatory and bereavement grief, and we are failing to open ourselves up to the comfort God wishes to give us.

 

I think we all would do well to ponder 2 Corinthians 1:3-5:  All praises belong to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he is the Father of tender mercy and the God of endless comfort.  He always comes alongside us to comfort us in every suffering so that we can come alongside those who are in any painful trial.  We can bring them this same comfort that God has poured out upon us.  And just as we experience the abundance of Christ’s own sufferings, even more of God’s comfort will cascade upon us through our union with Christ. (TPT)

 

-Michael

 

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February 26, 2020

 

How does God want us to respond to sin, failure, imperfection in human life?  I believe with constructive hopefulness—facing up to it without giving up.

 

William Muehl shares the story of a 5-year-old boy who worked all fall on a ceramic gift he wanted to give his parents for Christmas.  On the last day of school, before the holidays began and after the traditional Christmas program that his parents had come to watch, the boy was running down the hall and trying to put his coat on and waving goodbye to his classmates all at the same time.  In the process, he slipped and fell, and the ceramic gift he had worked on for so long crashed to the floor with a terrible shattering sound.

 

There was a moment of silence.  And then when the boy realized what had happened, he broke into uncontrollable sobs.

 

In an effort to comfort him, the father responded:  “Don’t cry, son.  Don’t cry.  It doesn’t really make any difference.”  The mother responded:  “But it does matter.  It matters a great deal.”  And she took the boy in her arms and wept with him.  After a while, she stooped over and gently said:  “Let’s pick up the pieces and see what we can make of what’s left.”

 

That’s forgiveness at its best.  Not discounting failures or imperfections and not denying the hurt and heartache that come with them.

 

Godly forgiveness takes evil seriously, but not ultimately.  It dares to see beyond the brokenness of the moment and looks to the something positive that can be made of what’s left.

 

Godly forgiveness takes wrong seriously but remains hopeful in the face of it.  Godly forgiveness doesn’t give up on us when we fail, and we are to relate to others in their imperfection in that way too.

 

-Michael

MARCH 2020

March 2, 2020

Carey Nieuwhof has written about “3 Things Christians Do That Non-Christians Despise.”  I want to share part of it with you.

 

Spend two minutes talking to almost anyone outside the Christian faith and you’re almost certain to hear a list of complaints they have about Christians.  The problem has been around awhile.  As Mahatma Gandhi famously (and sadly) said: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.  Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

 

The problem with many non-Christians isn’t that they don’t know any Christians.  The challenge is they do.

 

It’s not so much that Christians have an image problem.  It’s far more likely that we have an integrity problem.

 

Do we get misunderstood on some issues?  Of course.  But that’s outside our control.  There are more than a few issues entirely within our control that give us a bad name with people outside Christianity.

 

Here are 3 things Christians do that non-Christians despise.

 

1. JUDGE

It doesn’t take long for non-Christians to tell you how much they hate the way Christians judge other people.  Two minutes on social media will reveal Christians condemning unchurched people.  I doubt this is what Jesus had in mind when he gave his life in love for the world.

 

Very few people get judged into life change.  Far more get loved into it.  What would happen if Christians stopped judging the world (isn’t that God’s job?) and started loving it instead?

 

2. BE HYPOCRITICAL

There’s a word for Christians who say one thing and do another.  The word is hypocrite.  It’s far easier to call someone else a hypocrite than it is to admit you’re one.

 

What do imperfect Christians do?  You watch what you say.  Don’t pretend to be something or someone you’re not.

 

When you admit your shortcomings, you build a bridge between you and others.  Owning your sin is different than living in it; confession is never an excuse for complacency.

 

Change how you live through the power of Christ day by day (getting better), and at the same time, change how you talk about your faith, yourself and how you live (adding more honestly and humility to your words).

 

Want a quick fix for hypocrisy?  Accelerate your walk.  Humble your talk.

 

3. STINK AT FRIENDSHIP

Friendship is hard.  We all have ideas of finding the perfect friends with whom we’ll never disagree, share 1000 common interests and ride off into the sunset with.  Very few human relationships ever work that way.

 

Perhaps the first obstacle between non-Christians and Christians is that relatively few Christians actively pursue meaningful friendships with people who don’t share their faith.  Jesus pursued friendships with people who were different than him.  Whose lifestyles were far different than anything God had in mind for them (or for people in relationship with him).  Yet Jesus was their friend.  He went to their house for dinner.  They shared moments and meals and life.

 

It scandalized the religious leaders of Jesus day, and sadly, when it’s practiced authentically, it still scandalizes most of us today.  When was the last time you had someone who’s not your skin color, not your political persuasion and doesn’t share your value system over for dinner, or when was the last time you broke bread with an addict (who’s not in recovery)?

 

Often when Christians do pursue ‘friendships’ with people far from God, it’s more of a project than it is a friendship.  But people aren’t projects; people are people.

 

How exactly do you talk about faith?  Real friendships always drill down on real issues, and few things are more significant than the meaning of life.  Talk naturally in the context of your story; it is a great place to start.

 

Want a simpler place than that to begin?  Try this.  Just like the person. As Reggie Joiner says, people will never believe you love them if they feel you don’t like them.

 

Boom.

 

-Michael

 

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March 9, 2020

 

I just received a text letting me know that a long-time friend has died.  Last night my wife Debbie let me know that my father-in-law had been taken to the hospital for an emergency heart procedure after being in the hospital the week before with congestive heart failure and pneumonia.  My mom passed away last month.

 

What to make of all this?  I’ve come to the conclusion that there simply are seasons to life.

 

This morning I read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to throw away;

a time to tear, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace.

 

Different seasons of life involve different joys and celebrations.  Different challenges and difficulties.   Different thoughts and emotions.  Different reactions and responsibilities.

 

What to do?  I choose to trust God through them all.

 

How about you?

 

-Michael

 

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March 25, 2020

 

Suffering is a mystery.  Only faith can throw light on it.  Pain is not directly willed by God.  People have rejected his plan; they have thrown humanity and the universe out of balance, and so suffering was born.  But Christ came to straighten out the disorder.  He made of useless suffering the very means of redemption.

 

Michel Quoist writes . . .

 

This afternoon I went to see a patient at the hospital.

From pavilion to pavilion I walked, through that city of suffering, sensing the tragedies hardly concealed by the brightly painted walls and the flower-bordered lawns.

 

I had to go through a ward; I walked on tiptoe.

My eyes passed quickly and discreetly over the sick, as one touches a wound delicately to avoiding hurting.

I felt uncomfortable

I had nothing to say.

 

Lord, I don’t understand why you allow it.

Why, Lord?

 

Why this innocent child who has been moaning for a week, horribly burned?

This man who has been dying for three days and three nights, calling for his mother?

This woman with cancer who in one month seems ten years older?

This workman fallen from his scaffolding, a broken puppet less than twenty years old?

This stranger, poor isolated wreck, who is one great open sore?

 

Why, Lord?

I don’t understand.

 

Why this hideous suffering that strikes blindly without seeming cause, falling unjustly on the good, and sparing the evil; which seems to withdraw, conquered by science, but comes back in another form, more powerful and subtle.

 

I don’t understand.

Why these people, Lord, and not others?

Why these, and not me?

 

It is not I, your God, who have willed suffering; it is people.

They have brought it into the world in bringing sin, because sin is disorder and disorder hurts.

There is for every sin, somewhere in the world and in time, a corresponding suffering.

And the more sins there are, the more suffering.

 

But I came and I took all your suffering upon me, as I took all your sins,

I took them and suffered them before you.

I transformed them.

They are still an evil, but an evil with a purpose.

For through your sufferings, I accomplish redemption.

 

But he took our suffering on him and felt our pain for us.  We saw his suffering and thought God was punishing him.  But he was wounded for the wrong we did; he was crushed for the evil we did.  The punishment, which made us well, was given to him, and we are healed because of his wounds.  Isaiah 53:4-5 (NCV)

 

-Michael

 

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March 30, 2020

 

“Do not be afraid.”  Really? 

 

Did Jesus actually mean that in saying:  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  John 14:27 (NIV)

 

Is not being afraid a genuine possibility? 

 

I remember being told when I was a child about polio epidemics and that I had to swallow a cherry-flavored sugar cube vaccine so I wouldn’t end up in an iron lung, struggling to breathe.  But I can’t say I was really afraid.

 

I remember as a child about drills of getting underneath desks at school in case there was a nuclear weapons attack.  But I can’t say I was really afraid.

 

I remember as a young adult sitting in a prison cafeteria across from an inmate who threatened to put a fork in my eye.  But I can’t say I was really afraid.

 

I remember walking through an open dormitory in a prison that did not have cells where there was still blood on the floor because the night before an inmate had been brutally and repeatedly stabbed to death.  Okay, I had a twinge of fear that time.

 

What I feared most of my younger life was that I would never be loved.  I was way more afraid of not being loved than being sick or physically injured or even dying.

 

I knew that Jesus commanded that people who follow him are not to be afraid, but practically, how does that work?

 

For me, it came down to really believing, trusting whole-heartedly in this truth:  “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  1 John 4:8, 18 (NIV)

 

Once I deep down in my soul authentically embraced the God who is perfect love into my life, it really did free me from so much fear.  (I cannot say all fear has been driven out of my life.  I am not perfect.  I am a work in progress.  I still fear at times for the well-being of my wife, Debbie, and children, Allison and David, but that’s pretty much it for me as far as fear goes.)

 

I really do believe God does not want us to live in fear.  

 

I don’t want to come across as holier-than-thou or some fake pious type of preacher person.  But I by faith truly embrace this spiritual transformation in my life:  “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  Galatians 2:20 (NIV)  It’s my “life verse.”  And since every day I seek to die to self and allow Christ to live in me, from my perspective at least, that is what frees me from almost all fear.

 

What will work for you?

 

-Michael

 

APRIL 2020

4/6/2020

 

I need to hear it—again.  What Jesus said.  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 

 

“My grace is sufficient for you.”  “My grace is sufficient for you.”  I need that to be re-confirmed deep in my soul.

 

Why?  Last night my wife Debbie’s dad died.  It was just over two months after my mom died.  It was the same day that his brother died eight years ago.

 

“My grace is sufficient for you.”  “My power is made perfect in weakness.”  How many of us need to hear that again and again in this tumultuous, desperate, dispiriting time of the COVID-19 pandemic?

 

People are fearful for their lives.  People are fearful for their livelihoods.  People are struggling with faith. 

 

In times like these, we may be tempted to forget.   We may be tempted to forget the grace of God.  We may be tempted to forget the power of God.  “My grace is sufficient for you.”  “My power is made perfect in weakness.”

 

Deep down I need to hear that.  I need to align what I know in my head with what I feel in my heart.  I need a faith that’s sufficient because it’s grounded in God’s grace and never-failing love and is powerful enough to sustain me when I’m not sure how to face whatever comes next.

 

This is Holy Week.  It reminds us that faith is not a “get out of jail free card.”  Jesus struggled.  He agonized.  He questioned.  He died—on a cross.

 

Yes, the darkness of death descended on Good Friday.  But that is not the end.  Easter Sunday is coming!  Love could not be conquered by the grave!  Take hope in that.  I do.


-Micheal

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4/13/2020

 

It was strange.  Actually, it was a little more than strange.  There they were standing apart at appropriate social distance, and there I was leading in the graveside service for my 95-year-old father-in-law.  Only members of the immediate family were present, and they were all wearing masks.  It felt weird.  But in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, it was the prudent thing to do.

 

It was Good Friday.  And that morning I awakened finding myself doing something strange.  In my mind, like I was praying, I was singing a song I remember from my childhood.  You may be familiar with the words:

Jesus loves me, this I know,

For the Bible tells me so;

Little ones to Him belong;

They are weak, but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me,

Yes, Jesus loves me,

Yes, Jesus loves me,

The Bible tells me so.

 

I found it strangely comforting.  But I admit, I did not remember the words exactly right.  In my head I sang the words: 

“Little ones to Him belong;

We are weak, but He is strong.”

 

I remembered the words as “We are weak, but He is strong.”  And that’s how I felt. 

 

As we said good-bye to Debbie’s dad, what we needed was to be assured that He is strong even when, or especially when, we feel weak.

 

At this time in our world, when there is so much uncertainty, how many of us need to be assured He is strong when we are weak?

 

If we belong to Him, this is a promise that we can cling to:

Jesus loves me, this I know,

For the Bible tells me so.

 

That doesn’t feel strange.  That feels right. 


-Michael

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4/22/2020

 

At Journey, we’ve talked about it before, but in this time of the current pandemic, I think it needs to be spoken about again.  What is it?  Suicide.

 

Jim White writes that according to a new analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 1999 to 2018 the suicide rate in the United States surged by 35%.  It is now the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.  The greatest increases have occurred since 2006.

 

These rates have risen across almost every age group and for both males and females, with males remaining the most likely to die by suicide.  In 2018, the suicide rate was 22.8 per 100,000 males.  This is nearly four times the rate of women.  But the rise of suicide among women is greater.  Between 1999 and 2018, the rate among men grew by 28%, but among women, it grew by 55%.

 

The Bible is clear: “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13, NIV). And the reason is simple—life is sacred.  The fact that every one of us was created in the image of God means each of us is of infinite worth and value.  Taking it upon ourselves to end life is an act of defiance against God.  This includes murdering ourselves.  It is a violation of the sixth commandment.  It is never God’s dream or desire.  This is why the stunning increase in suicide rates should be alarming to all Christians.

 

Still, suicide is not an unforgivable sin, nor something that automatically commits you to hell.  

 

People struggling with suicidal thoughts are in need of Christ-like compassion and help.  Within the Christian community, where openness and grace should flow the richest and deepest, where the masks are meant to come off, and safety offered to all, acknowledging suicidal thoughts and deep depression should not be taboo.  

 

There is the idea among some that people of faith shouldn’t be depressed.  As a result, depressed people have been riddled with guilt, have hidden in shame, and have been afraid to surface in order to get the help they need.  This should not be so.

 

Depression and a strong, vibrant faith are not automatically at odds with each other.  Throughout Christian history, men and women who have been deeply committed to Christ have been gripped, sometimes mercilessly, with depression.

 

An article by American University states:  “Millions of Americans are staying home and away from others to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.  Doctors and researchers agree this is a necessary step.  But they’re also concerned about what this isolation could do to those already at greater risk for suicide. . . In addition to the increased isolation, many Americans are losing their jobs or seeing their businesses shut indefinitely.  That means increased financial stress for tens of millions of people.”

 

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please reach out to your Journey Church family so that you might be connected with resources to help.  We love you.  We care for you.  There is hope in Christ.

Or if you would prefer to remain more anonymous, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 or suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

 

You are not alone.


-Michael

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4/27/2020

 

Eric Butterworth wrote about a college professor who had his sociology class go into the slums of Baltimore to get the case histories of 200 young boys.  The college students were asked to write an evaluation of what they thought each of the boys’ future would be like.  In every case, the students wrote:  “He hasn’t got a chance.”

 

Twenty-five years later, another college professor came across the notes of the case histories.  This professor had some of his students follow up to see what had happened to the boys.  With the exception of 20 boys who had moved away or died, the students learned that 176 of the remaining 180 had achieved more than ordinary success as lawyers, doctors, and businessmen.

 

The professor was astounded and decided to pursue the matter further.  Fortunately, all the men were in the area, and he was able to ask each one:  “How do you account for your success?  In each case, the reply came with feeling:  “There was a teacher.”

 

The teacher was still alive, so the professor sought her out and asked the old, but still alert lady, what formula she had used to pull these boys out of the slums into successful achievement.  The teacher’s eyes sparkled, and her lips broke into a gentle smile.  It’s really very simple she said:  “I loved those boys.”

 

Mother Teresa said:  “Spread love everywhere you go:  first of all in your own house.  Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next-door neighbor.  Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.  Be the living expression of God’s kindness:  kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.”

 

1 John 4:7-12 says:  “My dear friends, we must love each other.  Love comes from God, and when we love each other, it shows that we have been given new life.  We are now God’s children, and we know him.  God is love, and anyone who doesn’t love others has never known him.  God showed his love for us when he sent his only Son into the world to give us life.  Real love isn’t our love for God, but his love for us.  God sent his Son to be the sacrifice by which our sins are forgiven.  Dear friends, since God loved us this much, we must love each other.  No one has ever seen God.  But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is truly in our hearts.”

 

The Bible says—when we love each other, it shows that we have been given new life.  Does the way you love show you are living a new life in Christ?

 

The Bible says—if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is truly in our hearts.  Does the way you love show God lives in you and his love is truly in your heart?


-Michael

MAY 2020

May 4, 2020

 

Sometimes I feel small in this world.  The problems around me seem far too big—much bigger than I am.  What impact can I possibly have on poverty, on addiction, on loneliness, or on this dreadful COVID-19?

 

The other day, I heard someone tell this story . . .

 

“There once was a man who was walking along the beach with a friend.  As they walked along, the friend would stop every so often, pick up a starfish, and throw it back into the ocean so the starfish wouldn’t die.

 

The man said to the friend: ‘Why are you doing that?  There are thousands of starfish on this beach.  You’re not going to be able to really make a difference.’

 

The friend just smiled, reached down, picked up another starfish, tossed it into the ocean, turned to him, and said: ‘Made a difference to that one!’”

 

I may not be able to wipe out poverty, addiction, loneliness or COVID-19, but I can make a difference.   

 

This week I will be volunteering at the Roanoke Rescue Mission.  Who is with me?  Please email at jackietaylor@journeyconnection.com or text me at 540.632.1535 if you’d like to serve with me.  I plan to go on Saturday, but if you are unavailable at that time, contact me so we could arrange another time to go together.

 

Let’s be world changers!

-Jackie

 

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May 11, 2020

 

I love the servant hearts of people at Journey!  I received this message from someone who liked Journey’s Facebook page.

 

“I liked your page because I assume I met a couple of your parishioners today.  I work for the Botetourt County Sheriff’s Office, and a young man and a young lady stopped to help me help a Vietnam Vet.  The young man helped me push the Vet—who’s wheelchair ran out of power—about a tenth of a mile up the road to a service station where the Vet could charge his chair.  I assume they are members of your church because the young lady was wearing a Journey Church shirt.  I just want to say how much I personally appreciated the help.  More importantly—that is a true demonstration of being the ‘hands and feet’ of Christ!!!”

 

In large ways and small ways, every day we who are followers of Jesus have the opportunity to be the “hands and feet” of Christ.  How are we all doing with that?

 

-Michael

 

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May 18, 2020


“What does Journey mean to you?” was asked in a survey of our church.  Here’s what some of you said!

 

“It is my source, comfort and strength.”  “Journey helped turn Roanoke from a place where I live to my home.”  “Journey has been our ongoing anchor of love and support.” 

 

“Nourishment for my soul and a place of community.”  “I have always considered Journey a very important part of my life, BUT I MISS IT SO MUCH MORE THAN I THOUGHT I WOULD.”

 

“A loving community of faith that is my family.”  “Place to feel like you can be yourself.”  “My place to recharge spiritually.”  “Love and kindness.” 

 

“My sanity.”  “It is a lifeline.”  “Spiritual center.”  “Where you learn how to apply the Bible to everyday life and grow in your faith.”

 

“I love Journey Church and can’t imagine it not being a big part of my life.”  “A loving and spiritual place to worship that makes me feel whole again.” “My JESUS BOOST that I need.  LOVE.  ENCOURAGEMENT.”

 

“Journey Church has changed my life so much, and I am a better person.  I’m happy to tell people that I am a member.”  “I found my spiritual home here.”  “Comfort, support, a safe space.”  “People at Journey truly care for one another.”

 

“Awesome church where everyone is welcome.”  “It renews my faith every week.”  “It’s what keeps me balanced and my life on track.  Without Journey I would be lost in life.”

 

“The most genuine, Christlike church.”  “A community to love and who loves me.”  “Where I feel accepted, loved and cared for in multiple ways by wonderful people.” 

 

“The face of God.”  “It changed my life.”  “I have friends for life because of Journey.”

 

I love Journey Church!  It’s the GREATEST!!!

 

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May 25, 2020


With other holidays, it is natural to say Merry Christmas . . . Happy Thanksgiving . . . "Have a happy . . . (fill in the blank with the holiday of your choice).”

 

My family joked with my mom this past Mother’s Day and wished her a Happy “Mother’s-Thanksgiving-mas” because in her awesome frugalness and stewardship of our environment, she likes to use up the leftover holiday paper goods, so every plate and cup celebrates a different holiday from the year.  It is an ongoing chuckle in our extended family gatherings to see what combination of holiday plates will dictate the salutation for the day!

 

Memorial Day is different. 

 

We feel an uncomfortable jolt when the accidental words fall out of our mouths—“Happy Memorial . . .”

 

It is as if our innermost being aches, and our hearts will not allow us to complete the sentence.

 

We are reminded that it is a holiday specifically set aside for remembering the ultimate sacrifice of others.  There is a reverence that is demanded from these lives that were cut short and for the families that have been impacted by that sacrifice.

 

In this past Friday Night Live broadcast, I shared a song that always bubbles up in my spirit on Memorial Day.  Here is some of the history and the lyrics of that song:

 

“In 1961, an unknown Oakland woman named Elma Dean was suddenly thrust into world recognition with a poem she had written during World War II, honoring the fallen soldiers.  ‘Letter to St. Peter’ has been transcribed on an American cemetery wall in England, recited by a U.S. Senator at another European cemetery, posted in National Geographic and found in the Congressional Record.

 

Appearing in the Oakland Tribune on December 17, 1961, is the following excerpt: ‘It was the summer of 1942, and things were not going well for us in the war,’ said Elma Dean in her quiet voice, ‘and so many of our sons, some of my friend's sons, were being killed.  I was going around with tears in my eyes.’  She shared her tears with the tears of mothers across the country when she wrote the poem, ‘Letter to St. Peter’ in November 1942.

 

‘Letter to St. Peter’ made its way to songwriter, John Gorka, who adapted it to a song he called, ‘Let Them In,’ which has since been recorded by a number of performing artists.’”

 

Here are the lyrics and a link to the song “Let Them In” performed by David Wilcox. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4odzRETc3VA

 

Let them in, Peter, they are very tired

Give them couches where the angels sleep, and light those fires

Let them wake whole again, to brand new dawns

Fired by the sun, not wartime's bloody guns

May their peace be deep, remember where the broken bodies lie

God knows how young they were to have to die

God knows how young they were to have to die

 

So, give them things they like, let them make some noise

Give dance hall bands not golden harps to these our boys

And let them love, Peter, for they've had no time

They should have trees and bird songs and hills to climb

The taste of summer in a ripened pear

And girls sweet as meadow wind, with flowing hair

And tell them how they are missed, but say not to fear

It's gonna be all right, with us down here

 

Our God is a God of sacrifice, and He understands our grief.  Here is a link to the GriefShare website that explains this so well:

https://www.griefshare.org/healing/god

 

Journey’s GriefShare group is an excellent community for healing, and I urge anyone who needs encouragement to connect with this wonderful community.

 

May God bless you all this Memorial Day as we reflect on the ultimate sacrifice of others and of our Lord Jesus.

 

-Melody

JUNE 2020

June 1, 2020

I struggle to know what to say.  I have trouble speaking.  Mere words seem inadequate.  Tragedy.  Anguish.  Fear.  Anger.  Sadness.

 

What words adequately could express the heartache over the unjust deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery—and the list could continue?

 

In moments like these, when it’s hard to find the words, we are called to the Biblical practice of lament.  It is a language for loss and grief.  It is the historic prayer for hurting Christ followers.  It is a way to process pain.  It is a way to cry out to God for change in the face of injustice—and is that not what we should do when the sin of racism plagues our land?

 

We who follow Jesus are called to embrace the biblical truth revealed in Genesis 1 that every person is made in the image of God—and we must speak out whenever the wonder of God’s image is denied in anyone.  God’s heart is for every person.

 

To lament is to create emotional space to mourn before God and with others.  It is critical in the healing process.  It means being honest.  And at this time, honestly, the Biblical word that keeps coming to my mind is—repent!  Be sorrowful over the brokenness of our world.  Be sorrowful over the violence of our world.  But be not only sorrowful—change!  Work for change.  When racism flourishes, God is denied, and change is required.

 

While sin, injustice and racism will never be fully eradicated until Christ’s return, we have the responsibility to carry out the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:20). We have the responsibility to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).

 

What are we to do?

 

1.  Pray.  Why pray?  Because we are in a spiritual battle against principalities and powers of evil when racism denigrates and demeans and destroys humanity.  We are to pray for ourselves in self-examination over whatever needs first to change in us.  Then we are to pray for all who suffer racism for protection, healing, guidance.  Then we are to pray for all who perpetrate racism for repentance and change.

 

2.  Listen and Learn.  Listen to stories of persons who have suffered from racism to empathize and understand.  Read books like:  Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.

 

3.  Take Action.  Engage in justice initiatives.  Support justice ministries.  Reach out actively to people who are different than you with the love of Christ and build genuine, meaningful relationships.

 

In Journey’s online services at 9:30 a.m. & 11:15 a.m. on June 7, Pastor Charles Wilson of The Hill Church and I will be having a dialogue on racism in society and the church.  I hope you will join us.

 

-Michael

 

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June 8, 2020


Perhaps not since the civil rights movement of the 1960’s has our country been as dynamically engaged in the struggle to move forward in the reconciliation conversation.  Right now our culture is in the midst of a great opportunity for real change.

 

When confronting racial injustice openly and honestly, it can seem overwhelming, but I am convinced that God’s church has the capacity for bringing transformation to efforts for racial reconciliation more than any other human entity or organization. 

 

The church is to be the heart and moral compass of a nation.  Racism won’t end in America until the church is reconciled first. Then—and only then—can it spiritually and morally lead the way.

 

I recently read:  “The racial reconciliation of our churches and nation won’t be done with big campaigns or through mass media.  It will come one loving, sacrificial relationship at a time.  The gospel and all that it encompasses has always traveled best relationally.  We have much to learn from each other and each have unique poverties that can only be filled by one another.  The way forward is to become ‘wounded healers’ who bandage each other up as we discover what the family of God really looks like.”

 

So, what now?

 

1.  Watch a movie?

“Just Mercy” (A film based on the true story of Walter McMillian who, with the help of defense attorney Bryan Stevenson, appeals his murder conviction.  Free to watch for the month of June on YouTube, Google Play and Amazon.)

“When They See Us” (A Netflix mini-series on the 1989 Central Park jogger case and the five males of color who were falsely accused.)

 

2.  Read a book?

“White Awake:  An Honest Look at What It Means to Be White” (by Daniel Hill)

“One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race and Love” (by John Perkins)

“Just Mercy” (by Bryan Stevenson)

 

3.  Participate in a conversation about these books in a multi-ethnic group?

 

4.  Get involved in a justice-related ministry/organization in our community?

 

5.  Share a meal with persons of a differing ethnicity to build relationships and mutual understanding?

 

What will be you your next step?

 

-Michael

 

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June 15, 2020


Journey is to be focused on transforming lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.  How do you know if this is taking place?  Really.  How do you know?

 

You and I and others may claim that we’re genuinely committed to follow Jesus—but how do we know if that’s true?

 

In Galatians 5 Paul defines what it’s like to be transformed by the Holy Spirit.

 

He begins by listing the evidence of people who are NOT being transformed by the Holy Spirit.  Paul says people NOT under the direction of the Holy Spirit have lives characterized by, among other things:

 

Selfish desires

Always fighting

Immoral ways

Filthy thoughts

Shameful deeds

Worshiping idols

Hating others

Hard to get along with

Jealous

Angry

Arguing

Causing trouble

Envious

Getting drunk

 

Which of those things are evident in your or my life?

 

Paul then lists the evidence of people who ARE being transformed by the Holy Spirit.  People under the direction of the Holy Spirit have lives characterized by, among other things:

 

Love

Joy

Peace

Patience

Kindness

Goodness

Faithfulness

Gentleness

Self-control

 

Which of those things are evident in your or my life?

 

-Michael

 

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June 22, 2020


Jim Denison writes:  “A recent General Social Survey shows that just 14 percent of American adults say they’re very happy, down from 31 percent who said the same two years ago.  That year, 23 percent said they had often or sometimes felt isolated in recent weeks.  Now, 50 percent say that.

 

In total, fewer Americans are likely to call themselves happy than at any point since the survey began in 1972.  The study aligns with research analyzing words on Twitter, which reported that Americans’ happiness in recent weeks was the lowest ever recorded.

 

According to a new report by the American Psychological Association, more than 70 percent of Americans say this is the lowest point in US history they can remember.  And the percentage of Americans who are ‘extremely proud’ of their country has fallen to 21 percent, the lowest since Gallup began measuring this sentiment in 2001.”

 

We live in a time when many people feel so stressed.  We live in a time when many people are hurting and struggling and trying to find meaning and purpose in life.  We live in a time when many people are doing some soul-searching.

 

Anna Quindlen writes: “There are thousands of people out there with the same degree you have; when you get a job, there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living.  But you are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life.  Your particular life.  Your entire life.  Not just your life at a desk, or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer.  Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart.  Not just your bank account, but your soul” (A Short Guide to a Happy Life, quoted by James Clear).

 

In this time, what is God trying to say to your heart?  In this time, what is God trying to say to your soul?

 

Happy is the person who can hold up under the trials of life.  At the right time, he’ll know God’s sweet approval and will be crowned with life.  As God has promised, the crown awaits all who love Him.  James 1:12 (VOICE)

 

-Michael


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June 29, 2020


Jennie Allen has written about combining research on how our brains work with biblical truths about our thought life to come up with a message on how we can take control of our thought lives.

 

She says she saw women who were stuck in issues year, after year, after year.  Even though their desire was to move past that issue, they couldn’t seem to do it.  

 

Allen recounts how she went through a season of pretty intense doubt.   She was waking up every single night, asking herself questions and really starting to believe lies about God and about herself.

 

Looking back, she can see clearly it was spiritual warfare.  However, she didn’t realize it at the time.  She just thought all these toxic thoughts over and over again.

 

She began a search for tying the Bible and science together.  She found we have anywhere from 9,000 to 60,000 thoughts in a day.  Of those thoughts, 85 percent of those thoughts, for most humans, are negative.  And about 95 percent of our thoughts are repetitive from the day before.

 

That means that we’re thinking the same negative thoughts over and over and over again.  If we’re having tens of thousands of thoughts, we’re thinking a lot of negative thoughts repetitively over and over.  

 

She says she wanted to grab everybody by the shoulders and say:  “Hey, you don’t have to live this way.”

 

She’s not saying that you can just snap your fingers, pray a prayer, and mental health issues go away—but you can change your thoughts.  She believes in medicine, doctors and counselors playing their role in the healing process.  Some of us have thought the same toxic thoughts for ten years, and that’s going to take more than just, oh, I’m not going to think that way anymore.

 

But she says that you can shift the way you think.  You can interrupt it.  If you’re thinking something specific and you’re honest about that, and you do start to discipline your mind and say to yourself:  “I’m not going to feed that thought anymore; I’m not going to give that thought energy anymore”, that is something that’s in your power and control to do.   That’s scientific and that’s biblical.

 

As much as our brains are shaped by negative thoughts, our brains are also shaped by positive thoughts.  Those positive thoughts are just as powerful.  When you really get in the practice of this, it really does start to change not just the way you think, but the way you feel and the way you live.

 

It’s not as simple as just thinking positive thoughts.  Start with a mind map.  List out what it is you thought about today.  Start by noticing your thoughts so you can start to see a theme of what it is that you’re so worried about.

 

How do we ever go from believing a lie to believing the truth?  We have to know what the truth is, and we have to know what’s a lie.  You have to start to identify: what is the lie I’ve been believing, what does God’s Word say, and what is the truth that could set that life free?

 

Isolation is probably the greatest enemy to our minds.  When Allen looked back at walking through her eighteen months season of doubt, she realized that much of that season was spent alone in the dark with the devil.  He just told her whatever he wanted, and she never told anybody.

 

She found that the biggest start to her freedom was when she started saying:  “this is what I’ve been feeling, this is what I’ve been thinking about.”  Then she felt like people could speak into that and help her with it rather than her being so alone.

 

If you are struggling or feeling isolated and alone, please let your Journey family know.  We love you.  We care for you.  We’re here for you.  And even more importantly, the Lord loves you and cares for you and is here for you.

 

-Michael

JULY 2020

July 7, 2020


The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah was chosen by God to deliver a difficult message.  Due to God’s people’s selfishness and disobedience, Jeremiah was to tell them that a serious day of reckoning was on its way.  Day after day he preached to anyone who would listen on the dire fate awaiting them.

 

Jeremiah was certainly not popular because of his commitment to doing God’s will and speaking truth when people were stubbornly determined to do what they wanted rather than what God wanted.  Jeremiah was ostracized and rejected.

 

Jeremiah confronted the self-serving leaders who preached that everything was fine and that people did not really need to change.  What was the result?  Jeremiah was thrown in jail for a while.

 

You know what happens next?  God tells Jeremiah to buy a field and promises him that though enemies are on their way to burn the whole city down and either kill or take captive God’s people, God wants Jeremiah to take out a jumbo-mortgage in the midst of the crisis.

 

Can you imagine the faith that was required to follow through with that, to believe that though there would be a time of suffering, God would not give up on his people?  God will not abandon or forsake his people.  God promises that he still has a future planned for us that we may have difficulty seeing right now.  We are to invest in that promise because it will help keep us going even when we may question if we can do that.

 

We live right now in a time of multiple crises.  There is the global health pandemic.  There is economic volatility.   There is emotional turmoil, to the point of feeling panicky.

 

Do not let fear win out.  Do not let anxiety overcome you.  Trust that God is still at work during difficult times.  Control what you can and trust the rest to God.  Invest yourself in living a life of selflessness and obedience, and God will see you through. 

 

I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.  Jeremiah 29:11 (CEB)

 

-Michael

 

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July 13, 2020


Lecrae is a Christian hip hop recording artist.  He has shared some of his tips for staying on top of his wellness.

 

“If you’re a Christian, God has provided means for healing and restoration,” he explains.  “And so it can be supernatural.  It can be a prayer and ‘Wow, look at this, everything’s different!’  But, oftentimes, God’s present in science.  He’s present in us taking the time to read books by doctors who can walk us down some healthy paths.”  

 

Lecrae shares what some of these paths can look like:

1. Meditation

“I’m a big advocate of meditation.  It’s not like some kind of weird mystical thing.  It’s literally clearing your mind of the clutter that is overwhelming you.  Whether those are anxious thoughts or sad thoughts, it’s just taking the time to clear your mind.  It could be a time where you’re reflecting on how close God is to you.  But mostly it’s clearing your mind of the clutter.”

2. Mediation

“I’m also a fan of mediation, which is therapy.  It’s sitting with someone, even in this time, where you can do telemedicine.  I do once a month check-ins with my therapist.  Just seeing how everything is going and how you’re processing, they can give you insight and wisdom.”

3. Medication

“You may need actual medication.  If you were diabetic, you wouldn’t say ‘Ah, I can’t take insulin.  God doesn’t want me to do that.’  God has provided a means for you to be healthy through insulin.  And same way with medication.  If you’re struggling with real emotional health issues, you may need medication, and that’s the way He’s providing wholeness and healing for your mind.”

4. Work Out

“Simply, practically, make sure you’re working out.  Also, try to eat as healthy as you possibly can.  Avoid a lot of extra carbs and sugars.”

5. Re-focus

“Lastly, I would say focus on things that bring about encouragement and freedom and are life-giving instead of focusing on the negatives consistently.”

 

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July 20, 2020


It seems so much bad is happening.  I want to be on the lookout for good in these times!

 

Three evenings last week 46 (yep, count them—46) youth and adult volunteers gathered outside for Journey’s youth minicamp to grow spiritually and to have fun!  It was so good!

 

This summer Journey has had three interns who have engaged in great ministry—Erin Janney (pastoral intern), Grace Hopper (worship intern), Ashton Bowman (youth intern).  So good!

 

As our church has pivoted to online services during the pandemic, Abbey Dillard (Journey’s Video Production Leader) and Keith Pennington (Journey’s Audio Production Leader) have done amazing work in our transition to having an ongoing online campus.  So good!

 

A married couple and their children in our church have wanted to be the love of Jesus to their neighbors.  So, they bought and delivered bags of peaches to their neighbors (yes, in socially distant ways) just to show they cared.  So good!

 

What good are you seeing as our Journey family seeks to minister?  Would you reply with an email or post on Journey’s Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JourneyChurchRoanoke/

 

How will we be the good news of God’s love and who can we catch being and doing good?

 

-Michael

 

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July 27, 2020


Have you seen Bridger Walker in the news or online?  He’s the 6-year-old boy who made global headlines for the courage he showed.  He sustained injuries defending his 4-year-old sister from an attacking dog that latched onto Bridger’s cheek as he shoved his sister out of the way.

 

Bridger underwent two hours of surgery and got 90 stitches.  This young boy knew he would get hurt, but he did it anyway.  He said:  “If someone had to die, I thought it should be me.”

 

At Journey we talk about loving God and loving people.  In the New Testament “agape” is one of several Greek words used for “love”.   It refers to pure, sacrificial love.

 

Agape love is unconcerned with the self and is concerned with the greatest good of another.  It isn’t based on how you feel at a particular moment.  It’s a choice, a decision of the will.  It requires faithfulness, commitment, and sacrifice without expecting anything in return.

 

Agape love is love that comes from God.  It’s essential to God’s character.  1 John 4:8 states: “God is love” (agape), meaning God is the source of agape love.  When we love with agape love, we love sacrificially as we participate in the very being of God.

 

Agape love is demonstrated through action.  How are you and I doing in sacrificially loving family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, people who are unkind to us, people who mistreat us, people who are far from God?   

 

Jesus declared:  “My commandment to you is this:  love others as I have loved you.  There is no greater way to love than to give your life for your friends.”  John 15:12-13

 

Bridger Walker got that.  Do we?

 

-Michael

AUGUST 2020

8/3/2020

 

It’s hard to believe! The 20th anniversary of Journey’s first worship service will be in October!  To celebrate, our church family is being challenged to do what we always do—be the love of Jesus!  Everyone who is a part of our church family is urged for our 20th anniversary to engage in 20 Acts of Kindness during the month of October.  You get to decide what they will be!  Please begin praying now about how you will share the love of God in this way.

 

From the start, our church has been committed to transforming lives by the power of Christ’s love.  In upcoming e-newsletters, life-change stories by persons baptized by our church will be shared.  Here are several:

 

My Story

 

“Before I truly trusted Christ, I took the burden on myself of believing that I was in control of my life and my life’s issues.  I stayed stressed and unhappy all of the time.  I didn’t understand that my own measures weren’t going to determine my destiny.

 

I decided that I would trust Christ and to let him lead me to what the true purpose of life is.  I finally accepted the fact that all people are sinners and are capable of being forgiven, and this applied to me.

 

I still face many obstacles in life; many are internal conflicts.  However, by deciding to follow Christ, I have a renewed sense of hope.  I trust that whatever the outcome is, as long as I live for Christ, it will be the outcome that is meant to be.

 

My life is different because of the new friendships that I have made with other Christ followers that bless my life with fellowship, but most of all with reassurance and guidance.  More and more I realize that people get through their day by their reliance on Christ to see them through.”

 

My Story

 

“Before I trusted Christ, it seemed like whatever I did to be happy in life was short-lived.  I soon was back to feeling like something was missing.  I turned to alcohol to fill that void.  It would disappear for a short time, then the next day I would be right back where I started.

 

When I trusted Christ, the empty feeling I had disappeared.  I found joy in my life when I realized what I was missing was my relationship with Christ.

 

Since deciding to follow Christ, a lot of the anger I had from feeling lost and empty is gone.  My relationship with my family is greatly improved.  I’ve learned to put my trust in Christ to take care of the hardships in my life instead of trying to do it on my own.”

 

My Story

 

“Before I trusted Christ, I never read the Bible or went to church at all.  I became a drug addict.  Not caring and non-loving became a way of life for me.  My heart became scarred and cold, and my life was a roller coaster of ups and downs.  Living my life outside of God’s grace for so many years has taught me how to manipulate, lie, and steal for the sole purpose of pleasing myself.  Getting what I wanted was all I cared about.

 

I now have given my life over to Jesus and know I have been forgiven.  He has shown me how God’s grace and love can repair my cold heart.  I now feel the warmth of God’s love and the hope of a new beginning.

 

With time, I know God will help me get better as he already has.  I pray to Jesus to help me make the right choices and to forgive me when I make mistakes.  Knowing for sure that there is a God has changed my life.  I want to tell the world what I have found—God loves you!”

 

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8/10/2020

 

In his book Life Is in the Transitions, Bruce Feiler bluntly says:  “the idea that life follows a series of carefully calibrated progressions—childhood to young adulthood to middle age to old age; dating to marriage to children to empty nest; low-level job to mid-level job to senior-level job to retirement” is dead.

 

According to Feiler’s research, the average person experiences a life “disruptor” every twelve to eighteen months and a “lifequake” (one big event or multiple disruptors at the same time) three to five times in adulthood.

 

In addition, he reports, the average worker today will hold twelve different jobs before the age of fifty.  Those with higher education can expect to change their jobs fifteen times and alter their skill set three times.  The typical job now lasts four years; among those under thirty-five years of age, it drops to three.

 

To navigate such a changing, chaotic world, Feiler believes we need agency (“the belief that you can impact the world around you”), belonging (“a community that surrounds and nurtures you”), and a cause (“a transcendent commitment beyond yourself that makes your life worthwhile”).

 

That sounds like what the Christian life is about!

 

How are you and I doing in being agents of God’s life-transforming love to impact the world around us in spite of and in the midst of the challenges that face us in our changing world?

 

How are you and I doing in actively belonging to a community of faith that connects us in life affirming and joy producing relationships that encourage and support us?

 

How are you and I doing in actively embracing the cause of the Kingdom of God that gives our lives eternal significance?

 

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8/17/2020

 

What does the future hold?  What’s the next year going to be like for the church?

 

I certainly don’t have the answer to that, but I think we would all do well to learn from people with significant experience to possibly catch a glimpse of what the future of the church might be.  I am pondering what Thom Ranier envisions, and I invite you to consider it as well.

 

Ranier writes:  “I have the incredible vantage point of hearing from tens of thousands of church leaders every year.  While it is admittedly difficult to project trends in typical times, it is exceedingly difficult to do so in a time of pandemic headed for, hopefully, a post-quarantine era.   Because we hear from so many church leaders and church members, allow me to venture where local churches will be in one year.

 

At least 20 percent of those who attended before the pandemic will not return to church.

Of course, this number will vary from church to church, but early indicators point to this level of losses.  Some of the former in-person attendees will become digital-only attendees.  Most of this group, however, will not attend at all.

 

More pastors will leave vocational ministry over the next twelve months than any time in recent history.

Pastors suffer a death by a thousand cuts.  It’s usually not just one or a few factors that push their limits, it’s the drip-by-drip effect of constant criticisms and conflicts they experience.  That continuous pressure and discouragement has been exacerbated by the incredible pressures brought by the pandemic.

 

Churches will move to a new emphasis on conversion growth.

Churches have been quietly disobedient to the Great Commission for three decades.  We are seeing signs of a new wake-up call.  Church leaders are becoming increasingly convicted that they must lead their churches to reach those who are not believers in Christ.  Church members are reflecting that same conviction and commitment.  Most church growth for the past three decades has been transfer growth, Christians moving from one church to another.  That dismal reality is about to change.

 

Churches will start more churches, many of them as microchurches.

Churches are moving from vertical growth (getting as many to attend as possible at one place on Sunday morning) to horizontal growth (growth beyond one site on Sunday morning).  A lot of this new growth will include the starting of microchurches, congregations of around 25 to 30 people.  These trends will have huge implications for the future of church facilities.

 

Two movements will grow rapidly: church adoption and church fostering.

There will be more unhealthy churches needing help in the next few months.  There will be more struggling churches without pastors.  Some of these churches will be adopted; they will be assumed into another church family and become a site of the adopting church.  Others will be fostered, which means a healthier church will help those struggling churches for a short season.

 

While it has become cliché to say we are living in unprecedented times, we are living in unprecedented times.  Those organizations that view this new reality as an opportunity will indeed see limitless possibilities.  This perspective is especially true for the organizations we call churches.  It’s a challenging time.  It’s an exciting time.  The next twelve months will be incredibly telling for the future of local churches around the world.”

 

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8/24/2020

 

100.  Yep, 100, as in years.  Today Aunt Mimi celebrates her 100th birthday! 

 

That puts her in the top 1% demographically (I could have told you she was in the top 1% of the population as a person—at least that’s my opinion!)

 

Aunt Mimi is loving and kind.  She is caring and generous.  She has a precious laugh.  She is thoughtful and still is of clear mind.  In so many ways, she is amazing.

 

For many years, check that, for many, many years, she has been a woman of genuine faith.  Her life has reflected the compassion and caring of Jesus toward people.  Her gentleness, her soft-spoken ways, her commitment to live in a way that is Godly has been a testimony to her Christian commitment.

 

Psalm 90:12 says:  “Teach us to number our days so that we may truly live and achieve wisdom.” (VOICE)  Aunt Mimi has had a whole lot of days to number, but I can say that she has truly lived in a way that has brought joy to people as she has shared wisdom with them.  Today I celebrate the life of Aunt Mimi!

 

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8/31/2020

 

With all the bad (or at the least the not so good) that’s seems to be going on around us, wouldn’t it be nice to hear something good?  I’ve got you!

 

Our Journey family gave over $3,000 worth of items for students and educators at Cloverdale Elementary School and Read Mountain Middle School and Northside High School!

 

Many of our adult Journey Groups have been meeting outside for fellowship and discipleship—and for ice cream treats!

 

Our Youth Group has been gathering outside weekly for worship, discipleship, fun activities—and lots of pizza!

 

Our entire church is starting a study of the New Testament book of James in September—what we’re going to learn I truly believe is desperately needed in our families and community and country at this time (see below for more info).

 

Our outdoor baptism  of Mandi Hopper and Linda Kincy at Loch Haven Lake was so meaningful!  Here are parts of their life change stories:

 

“Before I trusted Jesus, life was like a routine.  I focused on material things and people.  I wasn’t happy with myself or anything else.  Since deciding to follow Christ, I stopped focusing on material things.  It helped me stop being sad.  My life is renewed now.”

 

“Before I trusted Jesus, I had lost myself in the world, running with the wrong people.  Jesus has been with me through my bad and good times.  Jesus has opened my eyes to the fact that I must give up my old life and lead a new life with him.  Jesus’ love has sustained me.”

SEPTEMBER 2020

9/7/2020

 

The headline of the Newsweek article caught my eye:  52 Percent of Americans Say Jesus Isn’t God but Was a Great Teacher.

 

How do you react to this finding in the State of Theology survey conducted by LifeWay?  Do you agree?  Is it true because a majority of Americans believe it?

 

Suppose you think to yourself—that may be what a majority of Americans believe, but that’s not what Christ-followers who hold the Bible in high esteem, and whose faith is focused on the cross, and who are committed to sharing their faith with people, and who actively live out the gospel in their lives believe. 

 

Well, the same survey found that one-third of persons who consider themselves Christ-followers said they believe Jesus isn’t God but was a great teacher and two-thirds agreed with the statement that Jesus “is the first and greatest being created by God.”

 

At Journey, we’re committed to turning people into fully devoted followers of Jesus.  For that to take place, we have to know who Jesus truly was.  Well, how do you know what’s true and what’s not true?  In our church, we embrace the Bible as our source of truth.

 

So, based on the Bible, Jesus wasn’t just a great teacher—Jesus was also God, in fact, Jesus was both fully God and fully human (that’s what the story of the miracle of Christmas is all about.)

 

Also, Jesus was not the first and greatest being created by God because Jesus was not created by God the Father.  Jesus and the Father are co-eternal, meaning they have always existed (just as the Holy Spirit—the third person of the Trinity—has always existed).  Those truths may not be what a majority of Americans believe or what one-third of Christ-followers believe, but those are essential teachings of the Bible.

 

What do you say to the person who believes Jesus isn’t God but was a great teacher?  I suggest you point them to what C. S. Lewis wrote:

 

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him:  I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.  That is the one thing we must not say.

 

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell.  You must make your choice.

 

Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.  You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. . . .

 

Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend:  and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.  (Mere Christianity, pp. 55-56)

 

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9/15/2020

 

“Praise the Lord!  Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!  His faithful love endures forever.”  (Psalm 106:1)

 

Praise the Lord for the wonderful community of faith that is Journey Church.  Praise the Lord for the ways people in our family of faith reach out in love and care for one another.  Praise the Lord for our Journey Groups in which people are experiencing authentic community and are deepening in discipleship.   Praise the Lord for our church’s ministry with children and youth and young adults.

 

Praise the Lord for our meaningful Sunday morning worship gatherings in such a beautiful outside setting and for those who invite others to join them.  Praise the Lord for our online worship experiences and for those who invite others to experience them through sharing and hosting watch parties.

 

Give thanks to the Lord for Jackie Taylor whose responsibilities have expanded to include leading our church’s youth ministry and engaging in more pastoral care.  As a result, she now has the title of Associate Pastor.  Give thanks to the Lord for Rhonda Hopper who has begun a part-time ministry with our church as Online Pastor and who will be giving leadership to our online ministries.

 

God is good in so many ways.  Truly the Lord’s faithful love endures forever.

 

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9/21/2020

 

What’s the best way to celebrate 20 years of life-transforming ministry?  The way Journey is going to do it is to continue to reflect the servant heart of Jesus!  The way our church is going to celebrate is to embrace the opportunity for everyone who is a part of our community of faith to engage in 20 Acts of Kindness.  Yeah, that sounds like Journey!  Loving and caring and putting others before ourselves—because that would be what Jesus would do!

 

You choose whatever acts you’d like to do in reaching out with the love of Christ.  For more info and suggestions, click here.

 

Besides urging you to engage in 20 Acts of Kindness during the month of October, I’d like to ask you to do one more thing.  Would you be willing to video or take pictures of some of your or your Journey Group’s 20 Acts of Kindness or write out what the experience was like for you and send that to office@journeyconnection.com which will allow us to celebrate together!  Thanks!  Oh, one more thing.  Please also post on social media using the hashtag #JourneyCares.

 

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9/28/2020

 

In these divided, conflicted times, when so many people feel alienated and angry, how should we respond?

 

Jonathan Sacks is the spiritual leader and Chief Rabbi of the British orthodox synagogues in the United Kingdom.  In his book Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times, he describes conversations with a number of Holocaust survivors.

 

He writes:  “They were among the strongest, most life-affirming people I have ever met.  For years I wondered how they were able to survive at all, having seen what they saw and known what they knew.  They had lived through the deepest darkness ever to have descended on a civilization.  Eventually I realized how they had done it.  Almost without exception, when the war was over, they focused with single-minded intensity on the future.  Strangers in a strange land, they built homes and careers, married and had children, and brought new life into the world.”

 

Based on what he learned from those who suffered the horrors of the Holocaust, Sacks concludes:  “To survive tragedy and trauma, first build the future.  Only then, remember the past.”

 

As we go through a time that seems so discouraging and difficult, will we place our trust in God so that we may face the future without fear?  Will we share the light of Christ’s love with those around us so that the darkness will not overcome us?  Will we reach the place of not just surviving but thriving because our hope is in the God whose love never fails?  We get to choose.  What future will we build?

OCTOBER 2020

Rhonda Hopper, Journey Church’s Online Pastor

 

Nervous about catching the coronavirus?  Work in an environment that has a high rate of infection and you want to avoid passing on the virus to your friends?  Journey Church Online has got you covered! 

 

Journey Church Online provides a great alternative to in-person worship for those who want it.  Beginning November 1, Journey is beginning Zoom calls where people can “gather” to discuss the service, participate in a fun activity, and pray together!

 

Journey has always strived to reach the unchurched.  Some people are still hesitant about entering the doors of a worship service.  We have a great opportunity for you!  Will you ask people in your friends list to watch Journey Church Online and join you in a Zoom call?  There are people in your friends list who are not connected to a church and who are feeling lonely and isolated.  We can reach people like never before! 

 

Contact me ASAP at rhondahopper@journeyconnection.com to ask questions or to sign up for the training.  You can do this!

 

If you attend the in-person service, you can still invite your friends to your Zoom call afterwards!  The services are almost identical.  Reach out!  Romans 10:14 says:  “But how can people call for help if they don't know who to trust?  And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted?  And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it?” (Message)

NOVEMBER 2020

11/2/2020

A prayer at election time . . .

 

Lord, may we always remember that your kingdom is not of this world but of the world that’s coming and is not yet here.

 

May we see our participation in the world—all of our callings and activities—as a participation in bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth.

 

Lord, may we resist the temptation to place ultimate trust in any person, policy, party, movement, or nation.

 

May we remember that all politics, and all platforms, and all leaders are temporary.

 

Lord, may we discover our role in the just and merciful governance of the world which God made good and pursue that cosmos-converting vocation with love amid the world’s brokenness.

 

May we have strength and determination and wisdom as we love our neighbor and our enemy as Christ has loved us, seeking to bring justice, mercy, and lasting peace to the world.

 

Lord, may we comprehend that our salvation is not dependent on whom we vote for in an election, or in whether we vote, and that we are under no biblical or theological or moral obligation to vote for a person or party or proposal or initiative if that vote violates our conscience.

 

May we have empathy for the political decisions of others that we find troubling—particularly those of family and close friends.  May we have ears to hear what lies at the heart of their political concerns, and eyes to see the noble but imperfect search for goodness that’s motivating their choice, especially if we strongly disagree with the candidate, party, or politics they support.

 

Lord, may we be grateful for the opportunity to participate in our government, and if we choose not to participate in the election, may we find ways to make that non-participation more than a protest.  May we act to help and protect the poor, oppressed, and defenseless.

 

May we realize that the Son of God sets us free even as we vote for whomever our conscience dictates, without anxiety or fear, for the Spirit the Father gives us does not make us timid but bestows on us power, love, and self-discipline.

 

Lord, may our posture toward every human leader be driven by respectful prayer, and where protest or nonviolent resistance is needed, may we have the courage to speak, oppose, and critique—in humility and charity—their ideas and actions that oppose Christ and his Kingdom.

 

May God grant us the grace to affirm the humanity—the image of God—in every political candidate and leader, and the civility to impartially and energetically embrace any pursuit of genuine human flourishing they propose.

 

Lord, may we perceive God’s love for creation in sending Jesus to embody a New Humanity and may we join in Christ’s care for the earth and all its creatures and resources.

 

May we trust that God is working behind the scenes of history to draw all things to a good and fitting and proper end with justice and mercy and may we take hope in that.  Amen.

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11/9/2020

I want to share with you part of Carey Nieuwhof’s blog post:  After the US Election:  3 Things the Culture Needs Right Now That the Church Can Give.

 

“When you find yourself in a situation where there are so many things you don’t know, it’s good to anchor yourself in a few things you do know.

 

1.  A Blaming Culture Needs a Confessing Church

 

I would rather assign blame than assume responsibility.  And I also know there’s zero progress when that happens. 

 

Confession bridges the gap between blame and responsibility.  If the church got better at confessing and not blaming, we’d have a better church.

 

What can you confess today?  Who have you hurt?  Who do you hate?  Have you mistreated anyone?

 

You’re worried about your kids watching politicians and mimicking them.  Your kids are watching you more closely than they’re watching any politician.  So, take your personal sins seriously.

 

Confess them.  Repent.  Change.  You’ll never address what you don’t confess.

 

Not sure how to do that or resist the urge to post something designed to undermine someone who thinks differently than you do?  Process privately.  Help publicly.

 

Processing privately can be as simple as praying about it and waiting 24 hours before you do a thing.  Often, that’s enough.  Sometimes, you’ll need to talk to a friend.  Other times, you may need to go see a counselor.

 

The gravitational pull is toward hate, not health.  Healthy doesn’t happen on its own.

 

When the church starts to confess more and accuse less, we’ll make more progress.

 

2. A Divided Nation Needs a United Church

 

One of Jesus’ most important prayers was for unity.  The early church was marked (in its best moments) by a completely counter-cultural unity.

 

If your church plays the political game, you’ve already alienated half the people you’re trying to reach.  You’re alienating entire generations looking for an alternative.  

 

David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyon’s book UnChristian both explained and predicted a world in which younger generations would reject Christianity based on, among other things, our closed-mindedness and division.

 

We’re living in that reality now.  The oldest Millennials are turning 40 and fewer than ever are showing interest in turning to the church.

 

Unity would be an exceptional show of strength to a divided nation.  Cave to the deepening divisions and partisanship that are bound to come, and the church will lose more ground more quickly than ever.

 

Become a unifying force around an alternative mission (the Kingdom of God) and the culture may come running.

 

3. An Exhausted Culture Needs an Alternative to Itself, Not an Echo of Itself

 

You’re probably exhausted by the division, tribalization and anger that characterizes culture today.  It’s pretty clear that the culture is tired of itself too, but it doesn’t quite know how to escape.  That’s where the church can help.  That’s the perfect opportunity for the church to simply be the church.

 

Authentic, grace-filled, hope-bearing, truthful people are what our friends and neighbors need.  A generation tired of hate, yet caught in its grip, will only be released from it if there’s a clear alternative.  Hope counters hate better than hate counters hate.  And hope is what the church, at its best, offers.

 

Not hope in a candidate.  Not hope in a political party.  Hope in Christ, someone in the world who also transcends the world.

 

If you echo the culture, you get more of the culture.  How do you know whether you’ve given in to merely echoing the culture?  If God has all the same opinions you do, you’re probably not worshipping God.

 

Imagine, if in your church:

Love surged.

Hope got fueled.

You could disagree but not be disagreeable.

You focused on what united people, not on what divided people.

 

In a divided culture, Christians should be the help and the hope, not the hate.”

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11/16/2020

According to Francis Schaeffer, love is the mark of the Christian.  He wrote:  “Not just a feeling of love or an acknowledgment of love, rather a demonstration of love.  It is the litmus test Jesus gave to the world as to whether we really reflect Him.  Upon His authority He gives the world the right to judge whether you and I are Christians on the basis of our observable love toward all.  That’s pretty frightening.”

 

Schaeffer then added that the world cares little for doctrine.  The one thing that will arrest the attention of a world that has disavowed the very idea of truth is:  “The love that true Christians show for each other and not just for their own party.”

 

Jim White says that during this moment in history, we can either be a shining light to the world—another example of how the Christian faith creates radical community even in the midst of honest disagreement—or we can allow our faith to be shoved aside in the name of politics and, as a result, have unloving attitudes and words cause a stench that the world can smell and destroy our witness before a watching world. 

 

And then White asks:  “Why are so many Christians behaving so badly, in ways that are no better than those who are not Christians or even worse?  We don’t know how to disagree with someone agreeably.  We don’t try to empathize with others, enter into understanding, or put love ahead of opinions.

 

Whether in blogs or chat rooms, on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, we spew out caustic, mean-spirited words, actions and attitudes as if they are not reprehensible before heaven.  But they are.  According to Jesus, this is likened to second-degree murder (Matthew 5:21-22).

 

The one thing we must not do as followers of Christ is to give ourselves over to partisan bickering in such a way that we put party before faith.  We are not primarily Republicans or Democrats.  We are first and foremost followers of Christ.  And as followers of Christ, we should bear the mark of our Savior.  And the mark of the Christian is love.”

 

In this tumultuous time in our nation—how are you and I doing in distinctively demonstrating the love of Jesus to others—especially those with whom we disagree?  The Lord is watching.

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11/23/2020

It’s the Thanksgiving season.  How are “thanks” and “giving” related?

 

Jim White writes:  “It’s been said that the last thing that gets converted in a Christian’s life is their wallet.  But we also know that the Bible teaches generosity, and specifically, to the local church of which we are a part.

 

Many do give.  Many don’t.  Why is that?  Here are four reasons for each, beginning with why people do give:

 

1. They want to obey out of love.

 

The commands to give are clear and unambiguous.  Obedience in the Christ life is always about the heart.  It’s wanting to find out what God wants, and then wanting to do it.  Giving is always a reflection of where your heart is positioned.

 

2. They want to express gratitude.

 

If, as the Scriptures teach, “every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17), then every good and perfect gift in your life is from God.  That’s a lot to be grateful for.  This includes a child’s love, a roof over your head, your very next breath.

 

3. They want to experience God’s love poured out through blessing.

 

I do not believe in the ‘health and wealth’ idea that if you give, you can expect to get rich.  I do believe that there is direct blessing on our lives that can very well be financial in nature when we give the way God asks.  The larger picture is to want everything God would bring to bear on our life that is in the “blessing” category, and there is arguably more in the Bible about blessings flowing into human lives through financial obedience than almost any other submission we offer.

 

4. They want to make a difference for the One they love and the ones they’ve been called to love.

 

God has called to us to serve the least and the lost and to do it through the church of which we are a part.  That has a dollar sign attached to it, and appropriately so.  There are homes to build, food to supply, clean water to provide… there is outreach to be made, creative strategies to be pursued, resources to be put in hands.  The check you write is arguably among the greatest differences you can make with your life for Christ and the ones He’s called us to care about.

 

So why on earth would anyone not give?  That’s easy, but not pleasant.

 

1. They don’t love enough to obey.

2. They don’t appreciate enough to be grateful.

3. They don’t care about God’s financial blessing.

4. They don’t want to make a difference with their life.

 

This Thanksgiving week is a good time to reflect on what choices you are making in light of all you’ve been given.”

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11/30/2020

A research study found happiness in life is not correlated mainly with self-development but is rooted in the quality and quantity of friendships in a person’s life.  Elizabeth Bernstein found in The Science of Making Friends:  “From early adulthood on, the number of friends decreases steadily—though there are ways to reverse the tide.”

 

God created us for community.  Connecting with friends in meaningful relationships should be a crucial part of our lives (that’s why at Journey we have multiple groups for people to connect).

 

There are differing kinds of friends.

 

Companion friends are people we hang out with.  They are there for the big events in our lives.  They are the people we can discuss big-life questions with as we spend quality time with them.

 

Energizer friends are “fun” friends who we laugh with, who recharge us when we’re around them.  They help us not get depleted or stuck in a funk.

 

Navigator friends help us at crossroads in our lives when we have decisions to make.  They share life experiences with us and can help us when we find ourselves in sticky situations.

 

Spiritual friends are people we have relationships with that are deeply rooted in the love of God.  We’re connected to them by Christ himself in ways that go beyond the friendships of this world.

 

Worldly “friends” are “false friends”.  These relationships are alliances for superficial benefits or grounded in the pursuit of some vice or motivated by monetary gain.  Be wary of these.

 

Here are suggestions for cultivating friends:

1.  Be selective.  Be picky.  Choose friends based on shared life experiences, values, interests.

2.  Test it out.  Test character before committing.  Disclose a confidence and see if the potential friend keeps it.  Trust but verify.

3.  Be honest.  Always assume positive intent, never question loyalty, but when honesty calls for correction instead of comfort, conduct hard conversations genuinely and gently.

 

Proverbs 13:20 says:  “Wise friends make you wise, but you hurt yourself by going around with fools.” (CEV)  So, choose friends wisely.

 

Do you have friends you could call in the middle of the night if you really needed them?  If you do, this week call or message them in some way to let them know you’re thankful for their friendship.

 

One more thing.  What kind of friend are you?  Are there people who could call you in the middle of the night, and you’d be there for them?  If not, what are you going to do about it?

DECEMBER 2020

December 7, 2020

What do you want this Christmas?  I know what I want, what I desperately want.  I want to hear from God.  I want to clearly hear God speak into my life.  But I acknowledge, I often struggle with this.

 

One of the reasons I struggle is that time and again I fail to follow the Biblical pattern that I’m better at talking about than actually doing.  In Psalm 46:10, it’s put forth plainly:  “Be still, and know that I am God.”

 

It sounds simple, right?  But I struggle with this.  I deeply desire to hear the whispers of God, but until I get quiet, I will again and again falter in this.  How about you?

 

This Christmas I am going to seek to spend more time in silence.  And I want to be clear, the spiritual discipline of silence is not simply passively waiting.  It’s proactively listening.

 

The author Henri Nouwen believed that silence is an act of war against the competing voices within us.  And that war isn’t easily won because it’s a daily battle.  

 

Nouwen wrote:  “Every time you listen with great attentiveness to the voice that calls you the Beloved, you will discover within you a desire to hear that voice longer and more deeply.”

 

Will you join me this Christmas season in engaging more in proactive times of silence, listening for the whisper of God?

 

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December 14, 2020

How’s your faith these days?  Is it solid?  Is it shaken?

 

In this Christmas season, with all the turmoil being experienced in our world, have you thought to yourself:  “I don’t feel God’s presence right now” or “I wonder if God has abandoned me”?

 

Faith is expressed by trusting God and moving forward even when we’re uncertain and can’t see how everything will work out.

 

Mary and Joseph evidenced a deep faith when they experienced the unexpected that dramatically altered the course of their lives. 

 

Mary was engaged to Joseph, excited about her future.  Then one night an angel appeared to her and pronounced a life-changing message—that she would conceive a child by the Holy Spirit and bring the Savior into the world!

 

She was unmarried.  Her pregnancy would be a scandal in the small town in which she lived.  Her family might disown her.  Joseph probably wouldn’t marry her.

 

Yet, with all those things on her mind, her response was remarkably faith-filled.  She said:  “Here I am, the Lord’s humble servant.  As you have said, let it be done to me.”  Luke 1:38a (VOICE)

 

Joseph, her fiancé, was also excited to be married.  When he learned Mary was expecting a child that wasn’t his, just imagine what must have gone through his mind.  His world was turned upside down.

 

An angel came to him in a dream and declared:  “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to wed Mary and bring her into your home and family as your wife.  She did not sneak off and sleep with someone else—rather, she conceived the baby she now carries through the miraculous wonderworking of the Holy Spirit.”  Matthew 1:20 (VOICE)

 

And how did Joseph respond to the news?  His response was also remarkably faith-filled.

 

Joseph woke up from his dream and did exactly what the messenger had told him to do:  he married Mary and brought her into his home as his wife (though he did not consummate their marriage until after her son was born).  And when the baby was born, Joseph named Him Jesus, Savior.  Matthew 1:24-25 (VOICE)

 

It’s amazing.  They both said: “Okay, God,” and moved forward.  They expressed their faith in God through their actions.  In life we can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond.

 

There are many things we cannot control this Christmas season, but we still can move forward in faith, trusting that God is with us and at work in ways we do not understand.

 

I hope we all will choose to embrace Christ this Christmas season, celebrating that God has sent into the world a Savior for broken and imperfect people like us.

 

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December 21, 2020

How has our Journey Church family celebrated the gift of God’s son this Christmas season?  By generously giving in ways that reflect the Lord’s love.

 

Thank you that in love you made Christmas a time of joy for 41 elementary children at Burlington Elementary School by providing them with Christmas presents.

 

Thank you that in love you blessed 300 educators with continental breakfasts at Northside High School, Read Mountain Middle School, Cloverdale Elementary School, and Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center.

 

Thank you that in love you continued to give food to elementary school children through the Elijah’s Backpack ministry so they would not be hungry on weekends.

 

Thank you that in love you served homeless people by volunteering at the Roanoke Rescue Mission.

 

I thank my God for you every time I think of you; and every time I pray for you all, I pray with joy.  Philippians 1:3-4 (GNT)

 

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December 28, 2020

Mike Glenn has written that Christmas is when God calls our bluff.

 

Old Testament prophets begged God, “How long?”  How long until you come and save us?  How long until you make things new?  How long until you return and finish all You, O God, have begun? 

 

After all of these years, we’re still waiting...and waiting...and waiting.

 

But when Jesus gets here, we’re going to finally deal with that long held grudge that has been weighing down our soul.  We’re going to forgive all of those who have wronged us.

 

We’re going to work on our marriage.

We’re going to love our neighbors.

We’re actually going to make friends with people who are different from us.

We’re going to get engaged in our local school and work with the homeless in our city.

 

Just wait until Jesus gets here.

 

We celebrate Christmas with the unbelievable news that Jesus has come.  While we’re still trying to get over that, the reality that Jesus is indeed here—now we have to figure out what we will do.

 

We’ve made all kinds of plans...made all kinds of promises...when Jesus gets here, then, we’ll get serious about life.

 

We celebrate the surrender of Mary to God’s will, the courage of Joseph to believe what he can’t explain, and all the rest.  Yet, in that small stable in Bethlehem, God comes in the infant Jesus and calls our bluff.

 

We know our world is broken.  It’s not just the pandemic.  It’s everything.

 

Being quarantined pushed many of us deeper into our loneliness and despair.  Social media is great, but it can’t hold your hand when you’re lonely.

 

It’s how broken our marriages are.  Being together 24 hours a day, 7 days a week pushed many of our families to the very brink.

 

This broken world is why Jesus came.  It’s why you and I are called.  We’re sent by Christ into His broken world to redeem it in the love and grace of His kingdom.

 

It’s not a matter of knowing what to do.  We know what to do.

 

And we’re going to do it.  Just as soon as Jesus gets here

 

Jesus is here.  God has called our bluff.  What will we do now?  Now that Jesus is here?