January 2023


As this new year begins, when you look in the mirror, who do you see?  In many ways, the person you see in the mirror is the person you are in the process of becoming.


Do you see someone who is a friend and has friends, or do you see a person who keeps others at a distance out of the fear of rejection?


Do you see someone who is happy and content, or someone who is dissatisfied and joyless?


Do you see someone who is loving and caring, or do you see someone who is disagreeable and apathetic?


Do you see someone who thrives on challenges, or do see someone who is afraid of taking risks?


Do you see someone who leads others in a positive way, or do you see someone who is unwilling to take up the responsibility of leading others in any way?


Do you see someone who sacrificially serves others, or do you see someone who selfishly serves themselves?


Do you see someone who is generous in giving, or do you see someone who is interested in taking and really expects others to do the giving?


Do you see someone whose life is focused on becoming more like Jesus, or do you see someone who is more focused on themselves?

Who do you want to be when you look in the mirror in 2023?



What spiritual practice are you embracing to deepen in your faith in this new year?  There are lots of options.  I want to share with you what I’m doing as an example (though I hope you’ll discover whatever spiritual practice is meaningful to you.)


I’m engaging in journaling through scripture, focusing specifically on all the words Jesus said in the gospel of John.  I’m using the YouVersion Bible app that has the words of Jesus in red in the Common English Bible and the New International Version.


The first words John records Jesus saying form a question (that, in itself, I find intriguing—Jesus’ first words aren’t telling people what they should do but ask an exploring question.)  The question Jesus asked was:  What do you want?  (John 1:38) 


When I journal, I read over a passage again and again, seeking to pray over it and to be spiritually sensitive to what the Holy Spirit may want me to “get” from the scripture. 


Here’s what I wrote in my scripture journal about these first words of Jesus:


What could be the reason Jesus asks this question?  Doesn’t Jesus already know what I want?  What could be the purpose of the question?  Is it to get me to think about what I truly want?  Want from Jesus?  Want from others?  Want from myself? 


Does Jesus ask me this question so I might come to grips with what’s most important in my life? With what are the idols in my life?  How is it that I even decide what I want? 


What do I really want first and foremost from Jesus?  I know this much.  Jesus, I want you as the Lord of my life to lead me in life because without you I am lost.


I then use the interlinear function of the online Blue Letter Bible (https://www.blueletterbible.org/) that shows the meaning of the Greek words in the New Testament (the good news is that you don’t have to know Greek to use this tool!)


I found there that to “want” means to “seek in order to find” or to “desire”.  That leads to more pondering on my part about what it is I really am seeking to find and about what do I truly desire, and then I journal some more.


This gives you an idea of one kind of spiritual practice.  I encourage you to consider others.  But I do have one hope.  I hope everyone in our Journey Church community of faith will read through the gospel of John in 2023 with one goal—to get to know Jesus more and more—who he is and how he lived and what he taught.  Then I hope we’ll apply that to our lives.



I had the privilege to serve with a team of Journey youth this past weekend at the Bland Ministry Center.  Our youth gave out grocery boxes in freezing temperatures and snow, encountered more chicken juice and moldy produce than they probably cared for, but most importantly they made a huge difference in the lives of hundreds of folks in the Bland area and in the lives of the volunteers who work tirelessly at the Bland Ministry Center.  Through it all, the youth served with big smiles, an incredible work ethic, and a willingness to do ANYthing that would be a help to the people there.

Saturday morning our team packed 200 boxes of groceries to be given out to people in need.  After lunch, we packed another hundred boxes of groceries, this time with fresh veggies, chicken, and eggs.  Cars started lining up for the free groceries before the 2:00p start time.  We gave out grocery boxes and packs of Gatorade as the snow and temperature continued to fall.

On Sunday our team worked in the clothing closet sorting through donations and prepped items to be given away through that ministry.  We sorted, folded, and rolled linens into sets.  We sorted and hung up clothing by gender and sizes.  We even sorted through and labeled greeting cards, making it easier for the staff to find what they need.  Our youth truly were ready to do anything the staff wanted.

I talked with the staff at the ministry center, and they explained they serve people from Virginia, West Virginia, and even Kentucky.  The median age of their volunteers is 75.  The staff was overjoyed that our youth would come and help their ministry and their volunteers.  As we were leaving Monday morning, we said goodbye to the staff and were able to meet some of their volunteers.  They expressed genuine gratitude at all the work we were able to complete in such a short time.

Each night we spent time reflecting on our serving.  Here is some of what they learned:

“Many hands make light work.”

“I work better on a team than I thought.”

“I can deal with the cold.”

“Sometimes serving can be painful, bending over, lifting heavy boxes, but it’s nice to see the people you’re helping and to see the smile on their faces.  It makes the pain worth it.”

“We are a good team and work well together.”

“Serving is rewarding.  It’s really enjoyable to know you are helping others.  It’s worth standing outside in the cold and snow.”

“Serving with friends made the work more enjoyable.”

“God can use anyone.  Don’t let your weakness or struggles keep you from serving others.”

“It doesn’t matter what the weather or your body throws at you, if you have the right spirit of giving (serving others like you’re serving Jesus), then it doesn’t matter what comes your way.  It is worth it.”

“You never know what you’ll see!”

“It feels good to help others.”

“I was getting fatigued while lifting all the Gatorade boxes, I mean they were heavy.  But knowing the cause of what we were doing, being God’s hands and feet, it kinda renewed my strength.”

“Small things matter.  It doesn’t have to be this monumental thing.  Small things matter.  They help and are really appreciated.”

Thank you for supporting Journey’s youth ministry.  Truly you are making a difference in their hearts and lives.  The youth are already talking about their next mission trip!



Do you have regrets?  I do.  But I can say that my relationship with Jesus helps me deal more gracefully and redemptively with my regrets.  How about you?


If you’re wondering why you might experience regret, here are some of the common reasons for regret that the artificial intelligence ChatGPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) generated:


1. Not spending enough time with loved ones

2. Not taking care of your physical and mental health

3. Staying in toxic or unhappy relationships

4. Not saying "I love you" or "I'm sorry" to important people in your life

5. Wasting time on things that didn't matter

6. Not giving back to your community or making a positive impact in the world

7. Not forgiving others or holding grudges

8. Not standing up for what you believe in

9. Not being grateful for the good things in your life

10. Not being there for your family and friends when they needed support

11. Not learning from your mistakes and growing as a person

12. Not saving for your future or preparing for the unexpected

13. Not taking the time to cultivate meaningful relationships

14. Not being courageous enough to pursue your goals and dreams

15. Not being a good role model or mentor to others

16. Not being more patient or understanding with others

17. Not having more meaningful conversations with others



Why do so many people talk about Jesus but not read the Bible?  It’s a question put forth by Shane Pruitt.


He says that we’ve all heard people say things like:  “I love Jesus, but I don’t like the Bible.  I have a deep respect for Jesus, but I don’t agree with the Bible.”


Is the main reason we don’t have an issue with Jesus because it’s a Jesus that we’ve created by our own imagination?  We shape and mold Jesus to be what we want Him to be, but the very moment that Jesus no longer appeases us, we create a different Jesus more to our liking.  When we do this, we are not worshipping the Jesus of the Bible, but a “Jesus” that we’ve created in our minds.


The Jesus of the Bible will regularly disrupt our lives, call us to difficult things, stand in opposition to our personal preferences.  He often does the opposite of what we think he should.


Let’s be honest.  His demand to deny ourselves and His commandment to love others can get pretty annoying in our pursuit of happiness.


The Jesus of the Bible challenges our indulgences.  He contests the egoistic fine art of “looking out for No. 1.”  So, our inclination is to shape Jesus into something more palatable to our personal opinion and preferences.


We want Him to be created in our image.  We want to be in control.  We want to shape and mold our god to care about what we care about.  We want Him to be passionate about what we’re passionate about.  We want Him to be angry about what we’re angry about.  We think He should tolerate what we tolerate.


If this idea of Jesus is what comes to mind when we worship, pray, give, serve, live—ultimately that is idolatry.  It is the worship of a created idol—a misrepresentation of the God of the Bible—one to whom we’ve simply attached the name “Jesus.”


If we truly love the Jesus of the Bible, then we’ll also love the Bible that tells us about Him.  An accurate view of Him is necessary to authentic worship.  Let’s dive into Scripture to discover who Jesus is so we’ll view things the way he views things.  We’ll live how He lives.


Faith in the real Jesus will absolutely change who we are.  Are we ready for that?


February 2023


Do you truly know “who you really are”?  There may be times when you don’t feel it, but you are a beloved child of God.  That is who you are. 


Henri Nouwen writes:  “You are not what others, or even you, think about yourself.  You are not what you do.  You are not what you have.


You are a full member of the human family, having been known before you were conceived and molded in your mother’s womb.


In times when you feel bad about yourself, choose to remain true to the truth of who you really are.  Look in the mirror each day and claim your true identity.  


Act ahead of your feelings and trust that one day your feelings will match your convictions.  Choose now and continue to choose this incredible truth.  Reclaim your identity as a beloved daughter or son of a personal Creator.


Trust in the Lord with all your heart.  Never rely on what you think you know.  Remember the Lord in everything you do, and he will show you the right way.  Proverbs 3:5-6 (GNT)



Have you ever had the experience that you have to go backward to go forward?  What if before you can move forward in the journey of faith, you need to unlearn some things you learned in the past?


Until you unlearn some things, you’re not able to learn the new things God wants to teach you for you to go forward in living a more Jesus-like life.


Among the first words Jesus spoke in Mark, the first gospel to be written, was the command to “repent”.  The Greek work for repentance is metanoeo.  It means “to reconsider, to change one’s minds for the better, to think differently.”


In repentance, there’s rethinking.  There’s re-perceiving what’s real and turning towards it.  There’s shedding the counterfeit. 


In repentance, unlearning is involved.  Unlearning is a part of learning.  It’s a command of Jesus.  It’s a gift from Jesus. 


What are some things you think God wants you to unlearn?   What are some things you need to learn to think about differently before you can live a more Jesus-like life?



Do you need a healthy dose of religion?  A study reported in the Health and Medicine section of the Harvard Gazette says so.  It states that regularly attending religious services is associated with lower risk of deaths of despair.


The study authors noted that religious participation may serve as an important antidote to despair and an asset for sustaining a sense of hope and meaning.  They wrote that religion may be associated with strengthened psychosocial resilience by fostering a sense of peace and positive outlook and promoting social connectedness.


The study simply affirms what committed Christians already know—God created us for compassionate community.  It’s why in Hebrews 10:24–25 it says:  “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.”


Adam Carrington offers three reasons why Christians gathering in community is important.


First, without the community of the church, we lack full communion with God.  Christ reveals his presence when we gather in his name (Matthew 18:20).  We experience Christ more fully when together we worship, serve, fellowship.


Second, without the community of the church, we miss out on deepening in a fuller knowledge of God that can be experienced only when we learn from one another (Acts 2:42).  We grow in our faith when we grow together.


Third, without the community of the church, we lose a sense of authentic, restored human community.  When Christ restores our relationship with him, he restores our relationships to each other as members of his body, the church. We are now to serve those in need together as we serve our Lord (Matthew 25:40).


Bottom line—a spiritually and emotionally healthy church community in gathering together encourages those in despair with the hope that sustains starving souls.



When we seek to comprehend the reality of God who is so far beyond our ability to comprehend, it’s not unusual to experience doubt.  What are we to do then?  Well, what if we were to decide to doubt our doubts?  That’s right.  Doubt doubt.  The doubting of doubt can be an avenue to lead us to truth.


At Journey Church, asking questions, wrestling with doubt, struggling to understand is recognized to be a part of the way we grow in knowledge and develop spiritually.  If the Christian faith is true, and I believe it is, asking thoughtful, penetrating questions when genuinely seeking truth will lead us to Jesus who is the way and the truth and the life. (John 14:6)


One of the challenges that may come to us as we seek to grow in understanding is that we may discover that some beliefs we’ve held tightly to because someone told us it was Biblically true may be found not to be true because that’s not what the Bible teaches.  And that can be disconcerting. 


There are times to appropriately doubt what others say and claim to be from God.  If we want to grow spiritually, discerning what is of God and what is not of God, we need to be like the people of Berea of whom the Apostle Paul writes:  “They studied the Scriptures every day to make sure that what they heard was really true.” (Acts 17:11)


When you experience doubt, do not be afraid to talk with others about it.  God’s church is not to be made up of people who will dismiss your doubts as insignificant.   The church is to be a community of faith in which you feel safe to ask questions and seek truth.


When you have questions, when you struggle with doubt, take them seriously.  Don’t deny them and don’t let him discourage you.  Doubt your doubts.  Talk with others about them.  You might be surprised that others have wrestled with the same doubts you have and together God’s Holy Spirit may lead you to deeper truth and a greater understanding of God and the mystery of faith.


March 2023


I watched Jesus Revolution at the movie theater.  What an awesome story from 50 years ago of how God worked in the heart of a traditional pastor to teach hippies about Jesus in California!


The hippies were searching for love and peace.  They were searching in all the wrong places—mostly in sex, drugs, and rock and roll.  As a few hippies realized that they were in a dark place, they kept searching!  Thousands found Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and the definition of love!  There’s more to the movie, so I hope you will see it for yourself!


I find it interesting that this movie came out at about the same time as revival is spreading among young people.  The chapel service that lasted for 2 weeks at Asbury University inspired similar services at Cedarville, Samford, Lee, and Baylor Universities!  I have to think that God was somehow involved in the timing of these events.  Young people are experiencing revival today!


What does the California hippie revival and what’s happening on college campuses have in common?  All of these young people were seeking the presence of God, even though some of them didn’t know it at the time! 


Realizing that God is the source for true love and the peace that passes understanding is the first step to experiencing a relationship with God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit).  Jeremiah 29:13 says:  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.


The hippies were searching for love and peace in sex and drugs.  The college students were searching for love and peace through cell phones and drugs.  When the hippies attended a tent revival and when the college students attended a chapel service, they found what their hearts were made for—the presence of the living God!


If you find yourself going through the motions of following Jesus, be a seeker!  Seek God with all of your heart!  You will find God!  It’s a promise!



Have you seen the movie Jesus Revolution?  Seeking God is the best way to experience revival.  Sometimes a person will come across the message of Jesus, and they immediately know they have found the truth.


One of the characters in the movie, Greg Laurie, was in high school.  He was having a really difficult time because his father had left the family and his mother was an alcoholic.  He was invited to church by a girl that he really liked, and it was at church that he heard how he could experience forgiveness and have hope through Jesus. 


Greg became very involved in the church and by the end of the movie you find out that he is going to start his own church in Riverside, CA.  That church is Harvest Christian Fellowship which today has over 14,000 in attendance every Sunday.  He is still pastoring that church!


Greg Laurie was a lost soul who had very little guidance.  He allowed Jesus into his life, and he became a pastor for 50 years. 


Not every Christian is called to be a pastor, but God wants to work through each of us.  Philippians 1:6 says:  He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. 


Being a Christian is not just a decision to be made, it’s a life to be lived.  We may stray from the path, but we’re invited to learn and grow and keep moving forward in faith!  Jesus will carry us through.  Our mission and purpose will be completed. 


Pastor Laurie said in an interview:  “I would hope people realize that God is still in the business of changing lives.  What happened to us some 50 years ago can still happen for people today.”  The movie tells an honest story of God working in and through flawed and ordinary people.


Today there is crime, drug overdoses, self-harm, suicide.  There’s the threat of nuclear war.  People are scared.  Today is very similar to the late ‘60s and early ’70s when the story in Jesus Revolution happened.


I would love to see another Jesus Revolution.  Let's allow God to work through us to help bring it to reality.  Maybe this is the year that we invite someone to church and maybe that person will become a pastor for the next 50 years!  Let’s do it!



Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about the YouVersion Bible app!


The YouVersion Bible app is free and makes it possible to view 73 English translations of the Bible!  There are currently 1,942 languages available!  If you ever want to try out another version of the Bible, you don’t have to buy a printed copy of the Bible.  You can just read it on the app!


The Bible app is more than a variety of Bible translations.  The app features a variety of tools for Bible study and spiritual growth including plans, a verse of the day, verse images, friends, videos, prayer and more!  Let’s break down some of those features.


Read.  Yes, you can read the Bible.  Simply select your language, your preferred translation (I love the NLT or NIV) and then select where you’d like to start reading.  You can highlight and make notes right in the app!


Bible Plans.  If you’d like some direction in your Bible reading, try out one of the many (there’s more than 4,000) Bible plans.  A Bible plan is a reading plan or a devotional.  Plans showcase short passage of Scripture each day, along with personal insights to aid in understanding and application.  These Bible Plans come in a variety of formats:  reading, audio, images, and even video.  Use the search tools or “Featured Plans” to select a Bible plan that interests you.  Some plans guide you to read the entire Bible in one year.  Some plans are dedicated to specific topics, some of which include:  temptation, doubt, pride, joy, anxiety, loss, jealousy, patience, stress, fear, peace, and anger.


Whether you’re new to the faith or a long-time Christian wanting to dive deeper into your personal study, there are plans just for you.  Do you need help with marriage, dating, work, forgiveness, faith, worship, or leadership?  You guessed it.  There are plans for you.  Search a variety of topics or books of the Bible, and you’ll find a plan!  You may find multiple plans you’d like to check out.  Simply tap “Save for Later,” and it’ll go to your “Saved Plans”.


Verse of the Day.  Looking for quick inspiration?  Check out the Verse of the Day.  Each day the Bible app highlights a specific Bible verse.  Simply open the app each day to check out the highlighted verse.


Verse Images.  The verse has an image associated with it, making sharing to your social media feed fast and easy.  If you’d like, you can create your own image to go with the Verse of the Day.  Customize it and share it with friends!  If you’re on Facebook and follow Journey, you may have noticed the verse image is shared on Journey’s social media every day.  Just thinking about the verse of the day can make your day go better!


Stories.  There are even stories that goes along with each verse of the day.  These stories feature devotions, prayers, and questions to ask yourself.   There are both spoken and written devotions. Spoken devotions are presented by a variety of speakers.  The material for the written devotions come from many sources.  The different perspectives on the Bible often help me to think about a scripture in a new way and help me apply the scriptures to my life.


Prayer.  The Bible app has guided prayer.  When life gets overwhelming, we know we need to pray, but we might not be able to find the right words.  The guided prayer is a great place to start!  There’s also meditative music available to play in the background while you pray.  The app will keep a list of your prayer requests.  It's great to see how God answers those prayers over time.


Daily Refresh.  The verse, the story, and the prayer are parts of the Daily Refresh.  We can all use some spiritual refreshment!  Download the Bible app and have the convenience of these resources on your phone!  You won't regret it!


Videos.  If you’re a visual learner, check out the videos section.  There you see the events of the Bible come to life through vivid story-telling!  You may view clips from the TV series, “The Bible” and the amazing “The Gospel of John.” Or watch the full movie, JESUS, about the life of our Savior.


Kids’ Bible Experience.  The Bible app is not just for adults.  Check out the Kids Bible Experience to see a guided daily devotion for children sure to grab and keep any child’s attention.  The Kids’ Bible Experience will also highlight a Bible plan to go along with that day’s guided devotion for continued study.  Did you know there is a Bible app for Kids?  Download it today!


Friends.  You can connect with your friends in the Bible app.  You can complete Bible Plans together, study scripture, share inspirational verses and more. To add your friends, tap "Menu", tap "Friends", tap "Add Friends", and then follow the prompts.  Studying the Bible with your friends will help you discover things you might not have noticed on your own.  The Bible is better with friends!  I invite you to be friends with me in the app.  Each week I select a Bible plan that goes along with the weekly Sunday talk.  Once we’re friends in the app, we can do these weekly plans together with others from Journey Church!


Uncertain about how to use the YouVersion Bible app?  There’s an extensive tutorial on YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NoNZo8TXHc

If we’re not already, I hope we’ll be friends soon in the app!

-Rhonda Hopper



Holy Week begins on April 2 with Palm Sunday.  Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem on a donkey with his many followers shouting “Hosanna” and laying palm branches on his path.  This time of celebration is known as the Triumphal Entry!  Most in the crowd thought that Jesus was going to overturn their oppression by the Romans and end their suffering.  The crowd changed their minds about Jesus before the end of the week.


On Monday Jesus entered the temple.  The temple was busy because everyone was getting ready for the Passover.  Jesus was angry when he found the money changers.  Matthew 21:12-13 reads, “Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there.  He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.  ‘It is written,’ he said the them, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a den of robbers.’”


On Tuesday Jesus is questioned by the chief priests and the elders.  They try to trick Jesus.  Jesus answers their questions with more questions, and he also shares some parables—The Parable of the Two Sons, The Parable of the Tenants, and the Parable of the Wedding Banquet.  They question Jesus about paying taxes, marriage at the resurrection, and the greatest commandment.  Jesus answers calmly and with authority. 


On Wednesday Jesus was anointed with very expensive perfume, and the chief priests plotted about how they were going to arrest Jesus and kill him.  Judas went to the chief priests and offered to hand Jesus over for 30 pieces of silver. This was prophesied in Zechariah 11:13, “And the Lord said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’—the handsome price at which they valued me!  So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the LORD.”


On Holy Thursday Jesus led the Passover meal with the disciples.  Jesus washed the feet of the disciples.  Jesus declared that the bread was his broken body and the wine was the blood of the new covenant.  After this “last supper”, they went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.  Jesus asks for a different ending as he sweats drops of blood.  Jesus is betrayed by Judas and is arrested.


On Good Friday Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross after being flogged.  It is called Good Friday because Jesus became the sacrifice for all of the sins of humanity.  The good that came from Jesus’ death saved our souls for eternity.


On Holy Saturday the body of Jesus rested in a rich man’s tomb.  It was the sabbath, so everyone rested.  While on the cross, Jesus said the thief would be with him in Paradise.  Many believe that Jesus was in the presence of God on Saturday.  Others believe that Jesus took our sins to hell that day.


On Easter Sunday Jesus rose from the dead!  The empty tomb was discovered by Mary Magdalene and some other women.  They spread the good news to the disciples.  Luke 16:8 says, “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified.  He has risen!  He is not here.  See the place where they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples!”


April 2023


Are you anxious about the future? 


Francois de Fenelon, in seventeenth-century France, wrote:  “The future is not yet yours; it may never be.  Live in the present moment.  Tomorrow’s grace is not given to you today.  The present moment is the only place where you can touch the eternal realm.”


What if instead of being anxious about the future, you would commit to do what God wants you to do in the present—to live more and more fully like Jesus, to love more and more like Jesus?  What would that look like for you?  What difference would that make in the way you actually live?  Would that put you in the place where you could in reality touch the eternal realm?


If you are continually anxious about the future, that’s a sign that the trust you have in Christ is not yet life-transforming.  What if instead you choose to refuse to picture a future without God’s love, grace and care for you?  What if instead of fearing the unknown you would more fully trust in the God who has promised he will never abandon or forsake you?


Jesus understands when you feel overwhelmed by your circumstances and your responsibilities.  Jesus understands about your fears for the future.  Hebrews 4:15-16 says:  “Jesus understands every weakness of ours, because he was tempted in every way that we are.  But he did not sin!  So whenever we are in need, we should come bravely before the throne of our merciful God.  There we will be treated with undeserved grace, and we will find help.”


So, when you are anxious, seek out the presence of Jesus.  Come bravely before God, believing you will find the grace and help you do not deserve but which the Lord freely offers you anyway.  In doing so, remember that God does not exist to implement all your plans and fulfill all your dreams.  God calls you to a life that finds meaning and joy in his purposes which produce much greater results than simply your own comfort and happiness.  Trust in the Lord in all things and accept God’s peace and seek to live fully in whatever the next moment requires of you in living a Jesus-like life.


Amy Simpson writes:  “When the future seems threatening, imagine the worst and make peace with it as a possibility—but at the same time, recognize that it’s probably unlikely.  Also recognize that your worrying can’t prevent it.  Then look at it in the light of God’s promises.  Even if the worst happen, he’ll be with you and will grant you a kind of strength you won’t know until you need it.”