• Week of May 4, 2014

    Breathing life into people is a choice we make daily. What I mean is that we will meet individuals who are hurting, searching for significance, trying to break the cycles in their lives that are draining them, and who need to encounter the love of Christ.  I receive calls every week at the church from those in need of assistance; many are people I don’t know who are just totally desperate.  In serving and loving someone, frustration can sometimes follow.  At some point the realization hits that we cannot take the place of Christ in the life of another person.  We can love like Him, we can encourage like Him, we can help take care of needs like Him, we can give guidance like Him, but we can’t transform their lives like Him.  They have to choose to allow Him to do that. There have been moments over the years that I have been devastated by people in whom I invested my love and time, only to have them go right back to the place from which they came. It breaks my heart because I see that they want to live a life for Christ but not to the point that it can make a difference for them forever.  They treat a relationship with Him as if they are putting a Band-Aid on an open sore.  Once it stops bleeding they take the Band-Aid off.

    Chuck experienced the same kind of frustration just a few years ago. From the outside looking in, Journey was thriving and at the top of its game.  Our numbers were through the roof, and that included nearly 100 college students.  We were the cool church in town.  God did a lot of great things at our little church in Howard, Ohio.  We had an amazing staff who thought up effective strategies and programs for bringing more people in on Sunday mornings.  Journey Church was fun…plain and simple. Chuck gave relative teachings and principles to live by, and the worship team rocked just like they do now.  Journey was very “seeker friendly.” You might be asking what is so frustrating about that scenario.

    Frankly, we had a lot of people come and go. The reality is people are not transformed by just listening to a good Bible teaching and trying to apply it.  They will come up empty if the application is not Holy Spirit driven and a result of living in His Presence regularly.  Transformation doesn’t come from cool strategies and being “relevant.”  It doesn’t come from going through the motions of being a Christian. Following Jesus in America can look like “I will follow Him as long as:  it’s convenient; I don’t have to sacrifice things; I can get what I want; I don’t have to deny myself.  The Gospel message is about HIM.  In America we make it about people.  The rest of the world is not caught up in the “me, me, me” mentality of entertainment and consumerism, in other words, the gospel of ME.

    The scripture Chuck unpacked on Sunday is Revelation 3:14-22 about the Church of Laodicea.  This is a picture of the Church in end times. Laodicea was a very wealthy city and was known for its banking industry, manufacturing wool, and a medical school that produced eye salve. But the city had always had a problem with its water supply.  At one time an aqueduct was built to bring water to the city from hot springs.  But by the time water reached the city, it was neither hot nor refreshingly cool—only lukewarm.  In the text, Jesus gives the Church of Laodicea a reality check that they are becoming as flavorless as the tepid water. They are so distracted with wealth and other things that they are maintaining their faith in a half-hearted way.  They were indifferent to the things of Christ; passionless, if you will. From the outside looking in, the Church of Laodicea looked like the cool place to be; full of wealth and luxury, a place for people to be comfortable.  The problem with getting too comfortable is that it can lead to complacency.

    During this major growth time at Journey, Chuck began seeing some things that the rest of us wouldn’t be privy to. People who came to Journey struggling and appearing to make positive changes in their lives began to revert back to their old lifestyles. It was good to go to church on Sunday, but they wanted to live their own way throughout the week.  They heard all of the principles Chuck was teaching and took advantage of some of the programs offered, and yet they remained lukewarm to the things of Christ. Journey had become a social club for many who walked through the doors.  It was at the peak of Journey’s success that God spoke to Chuck about the value of living in His Presence for true transformation.

    Chuck was very straightforward on Sunday when he said that Journey Church cannot be the way we used to be because Jesus said we have to be more concerned with the things to pursue more of Him. We can still have a great worship band, donuts, coffee, a good kid’s program, etc. The difference comes in the motivation of our intentions:  Are we serving the wants of people or is our focus on worshipping and increasing our intimacy with Him?

    This is Chuck’s vision for Journey now…

    • We want you to be uncomfortable…

    -          Jesus calls the shots to the point of us being uncomfortable

    -          If money is a problem in your life He’ll tell you to give it away – whatever rules over Him in our lives, He will tell us to get rid of it.

    -          God is drawn to our hunger

    -          Although some people at Journey are uncomfortable with the intimacy in worship and the experience of expression, it is necessary for us to focus on the hungry. We understand that there are those who are not ready for this kind of experience.

    -          We can have the most of the Kingdom as we want, but He can only transform the parts of our lives that we give Him.

    -          Our worship is to encounter intimacy with Him

    -          We love each other in spite of our differences

    • We want to offend your way of thinking…

    -          God doesn’t want us to follow Him because we know everything He’s doing.  God is good all of the time.

    • We’re going to push you to take risks…

    -          Jesus said If you believe you’ll see more of Him—Peter walked on the water

    -          He calls us to get out of the boat

    • We’re going to talk about money…

    -          Journey hasn’t taken an offering in the past, but Jesus talked about our stuff and generous giving

    -          We are keeping people from God when we are afraid to offend others and our hearts are not about giving

    • We are being asked to sacrifice…

    -          Jesus wants to be Lord our lives not just the Savior

    -          We have to allow Him to set our course

    -          He wants us to get out of our seats and DO SOMETHING!

     

    God isn’t interested in our perfection and performance. He wants us to honestly pursue an intimate relationship with Him, knowing full well that we are going to mess up.  Our journey is about progress, not perfection. As we understand more about whom we are in Him and what He did for us on the cross, transformation takes place in us; sometimes in areas we never knew needed transformation.

    Grace and Peace,

    Merri Anne

  • Week of April 28, 2014

    Who doesn’t love Tigger? You know the joyful friend of Winnie Pooh…he’s bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy…fun, fun, fun, fun, fun!  He’s the life of the party in the Hundred Acre Woods.  Although he can create some havoc now and again during his whirlwind appearances; Tigger breathes life into the atmosphere wherever his springy tail takes him.  His joy is contagious!  Pooh and Piglet adore him, and Rabbit (who tends to be a tad grumpy) even will dance a little when Tigger is around.  What would their little community be like without the loveable Tigger?

    The Tiggers of this world carry the same thing in their DNA:  Joy.  Do you have anyone in your life that fits this description?  Usually these individuals laugh easily and shift their surroundings to look like a party.  People want to be around them.  Unfortunately, Tiggers can get on the nerves of others who tend to worry and be uptight about things—like Rabbit.  Rabbit was always in angst about something; his garden, the tidiness of his house, being late.  He worried about anything and everything.  Tigger’s joy was too much to take!  He would lash out in irritation at Tigger for messing things up.  Why couldn’t Tigger be more responsible?  Why couldn’t he be QUIETER??

    Journey was so blessed to host Kevin Dedmon over the weekend.  His message throughout the sessions highlighted that the Kingdom of God is about righteousness, peace, and JOY.  When God shows up people should get happy!  For far too long the Church has turned away from the fact that Jesus was actually a joyful person.  While he could be contemplative he certainly didn’t walk around in consternation, ringing his hands over the future.  Jesus had the proper perspective of his Father.  He also had the river of living water flowing out of him…the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit brings joy in abundance.  We cannot let our experiences dictate what we think is God’s mood.  When we encounter God’s Presence, we encounter joy!

    Kevin gave one statement that really stuck with me: Our mood flows out of who we are. We are told not to sneeze on someone because our breath contains everything that’s inside of us. So it is when we are in a funky mood. We can bring negativity into the environment.  Happiness is a choice. We can either access the Holy Spirit who resides in us and allow him to transform our sad into happy and our mourning into dancing, or we live a life like Rabbit; waiting for the other shoe to drop, wasting too many hours worrying, and tripping over our bottom lip saying, “Oh, woe is me.” It’s true that we will go through hard times making it difficult to be happy; but God promises that joy will come in the morning.  We just have to surrender our lives to him.  Yielding our concerns, hopes, dreams, and lives to God transforms us so we can be carriers of His Presence.  In His Presence is great joy!

    From what place is your mood flowing? Are you living in perpetual joy or angst?  If joy isn’t your first answer may I suggest that you ask God to show you how to alter the way you’re living to make it your first answer. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve talked about the fact that our circumstances may not naturally lead us to joy.  It is living continually in His Presence that allows us to live a naturally supernatural life.

    Kevin Dedmon’s Scripture References…

    Psalm 103; Isaiah 61; Nehemiah 8; Psalm 126; Luke 6:20-21; James 4:9; Acts 8:4; Ezekiel 47:1; John 7:37; John 17:13-14; Acts 2:1-15; Acts 10:38; I Corinthians 4:20; Romans 14:17; Psalm 16:11; Hebrews 11:6; Ephesians 5:18; Ezekiel 37;

    (If you did not have the opportunity to attend the Kevin Dedmon conference, you may listen to it on Podcast @ www.gotojourney.com)

    Grace and Peace,

    Merri Anne

  • Week of April 21, 2014

    Disappointment is hard.  Parents do their best to help their children navigate through disappointment; but truthfully, adults can also have trouble responding appropriately, particularly when things don’t go the way we think they should.  A primary example is when we become disappointed or disillusioned in relationships.  Christian Relationship Counselor Paul T. Tripp says that when a couple complains that their spouse isn’t the person they married, he quickly corrects them by pointing out that they are indeed the person they married—the fake is who they were dating. The courtship was all about impressing to get the catch. So how do we cope disappointment?

    Recently I found out that a friend of many years was diagnosed with leukemia.  He is in his mid-forties, has a lovely wife, four beautiful daughters, and loves Jesus. This does not fit into his life plan. Do you think he’s a little disappointed?  How about his family?  I’m sure his wife wasn’t expecting to put their lives on hold while raising four daughters, one of which is graduating from high school in a month.  No, I would say without hesitation that this is not what they wanted their world to look like.

    You know, Jesus knew that we would experience disappointment and disillusionment.  He knew life could get very difficult for us.  That’s why He sacrificed himself on the cross to have victory over the darkness that blanketed this world. He had to do something drastic to undo what happened in the Garden when Adam and Eve believed the lies of the enemy.  Everything changed when they handed over the keys by disobeying God. They lost everything perfect in their relationship with the Father.  Because they believed the lie that God didn’t love them they forgot that He made them in His image.  They forgot that He gave them dominion over the earth.  They forgot that the devil and demons had no authority over them—his only power came from them believing his lies.  Rather than them walking in intimacy and relationship with God, fear and shame overwhelmed them.  All of sudden their world was full of disappointment and disillusionment.

    On Easter Sunday, Chuck tackled the subject that there is darkness in the world, but even in the midst of it, God’s story intertwines with ours. Our circumstances and emotions don’t define the plan that God has for us.  God wants us to be filled with hope and joy because of what His Son did on the cross.  Jesus died for all of the sin and ugliness in this world, but He resurrected three days later.  He gained back the keys!!  The resurrection is the story we can live today; not just one day when we die and go to heaven, although we find our ultimate hope of being with Him in eternity.  Like He taught the disciples, He wants us to live our story out by joining His.

    The disciples became disillusioned when Christ died.  All of their plans were derailed.  Their disillusionment turned to hopelessness.  They had expected Jesus to reign as king on earth, redeeming Israel.  Even though they had walked with Jesus they missed the most important element of His ministry.

    Chuck’s main scripture text is found in Luke 24:13-35 about Jesus appearing to the two believers traveling on the road to Emmaus.  These two were devastated over the death of Jesus.  As you read about this encounter you will see that they missed the significance of History’s greatest event because they were too focused on their disappointments and problems.  They were so out of focus that they didn’t recognize Him when He started walking with them.  He ended up having dinner with them and talking about what happened.  Jesus even let them know they were foolish because they didn’t believe the words of the prophets.  The following excerpt from the text is profound:

    When He was at the table with them, He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.  Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him, and He disappeared from their sight.  They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”  Luke 24:30-32 (NIV)

    This world has its troubles—Jesus said it would be so; however, He also said that He had come to overcome the world.  He promised never to leave us or forsake us.  I trust that Jesus means what He says.

    The enemy wants us to believe the same lie that Adam and Eve believed; that we are not loved by the Father.  He wants us to believe that he is more powerful than God, as ridiculous as that sounds many of us behave like we believe it.  Because of what Jesus did on the cross we do not have to live defeated and disillusioned lives while on earth, just to endure until we get to heaven. 

    The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  (The words of Jesus:  John 10:10 NIV)

    Life can be so hard there is no doubt about it.  There is pain—emotional and physical.  Things happen that we don’t understand, but that is where our faith is made evident.  Do we trust that God is who He says He is?  Because of the terrible circumstances we find ourselves in does that mean that God has toppled off of His throne?

    The only way to battle the enemy and his minion is to spend time in the Presence of the Living God.  It is there that He speaks to us and gives us the supernatural peace and comfort that can only come from the Holy Spirit residing in us.  It is in His Presence that our hearts will burn inside of us for more of Him.  This is where the battle is won.  Let us not forget the victory that took place the day the stone was rolled away. 

    Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.  But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven.  The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.  He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

    Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:

                    “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah.  For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.  They triumph over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.  Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”  Revelation 12:7-12 (NIV)

    THIS IS OUR HOPE!!!!

    Grace and Peace,

    Merri Anne

  • Week of April 14, 2014

    Advertising and the media have done an excellent job inundating us from the time we’re tiny toddlers that we need the next best thing.  It is disturbing to watch our children get an expensive electronic gadget, and then no sooner do we turn around but they need the upgrade!  It drives me crazy to have to battle that in our home.  However, the issue of being consumer-minded is as common to adults as adolescents.  Just like our children we have a difficult time seeing through the blurred lines when it comes to our wants and needs.  This condition affects our priorities, our desires, and ambition.  It should be no surprise then that the consumer mentality trickles down to every area in our lives, including church. 

    The Power of “No” has been a most challenging series that Chuck has presented over the last couple of weeks at Journey.  He has spoken boldly about the condition of the American church.  We are a society that is used to getting what we want, so our priorities become skewed.  What we are missing in most American churches is the principle that in the Kingdom of God, if we want to have more of Him, we have to say “no” to some other things.  Frankly, the difference between the American church and churches in less affluent countries is lack of competition. Other countries don’t have as many things to compete with God.  The people are less distracted with worldly things so they seem to expect more from God.  He is their main focus to navigate life.

    34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” ~Mark 8:34-38 (NIV)

    It’s pretty clear in the words of Jesus that our inability to say “no” to the things of this world distracts us from Him and the Kingdom. The distractions don’t have to be bad things. Money for instance, isn’t bad in and of itself, but the love of money is a problem.  Anything that takes priority over God keeps us from living a life that is transformed by Him.  We must make space for Jesus. The consumer-driven church hinders/fights the transformation that God wants for us.  If we walk into a church with the pursuit of what’s going to be good for ME AND MY FAMILY, then it becomes about us.  It becomes nearly impossible to be a unified body if we are only concerned about our needs being met. How are we capable of serving others if we’re inward focused?  There isn’t anything wrong with wanting good programs for our children, good teaching, and worship music we like, but if that’s all that we’re looking for in a church then we will be void of what He really wants to do inside of us.  The power of saying “no” to the world and self-centeredness is the power to say “yes” and hunger for more of God.  It is necessary to have the resolve to allow Him to change our desires.

    Chuck spoke from his heart as he related the difference in Journey over the last couple of years. God called him personally to move out of a season of consumerism in his view of the church, and to pursue His Presence.  God had done some incredible things at Journey over a several year period.  Attendance was booming, and some dynamic things were happening.  Chuck shared that He was convicted about getting caught up in worrying about numbers, pleasing everyone in the church, and delivering a relevant message at the expense of not hungering for more of God Himself.  He realized that the true church exists to encounter the Presence of God rather than being driven by consumerism. That’s when God started changing the direction of Journey.  We are still Journey Church, but our focus is a little different.

    I found an illustration that Chuck gave to be pretty poignant: 

    Jesus would not be a good pastor because…

    • He made people feel uncomfortable (the church is not for us, it’s for Him).  He had hard things to say.
    • His sermons were not “seeker friendly.”
    • He was not good at advertising.  He would heal someone and then tell them not to tell!

     

    Today’s church measures by numbers and is full of people who don’t want to be disciples. They want to punch in on a time-clock.  Jesus knew it was about the Holy Spirit moving.

    Finally, Chuck gave practical thoughts for us individually in making our “YES” become stronger:

    -          The hungrier we are for God’s Presence our “YES” will be strengthened against the things that draw us away from God.

    -          We become hungry when we position ourselves in His Presence.  We reprioritize our lives around Him rather than all of the other stuff of this world that distracts us.

    -          We all have a dark night of the soul when life is hard.  He teaches us that He’s there even when we don’t FEEL Him; we just need to follow Him.

    -          No more personal ambition.  We can be ambitious but not driven by personal ambition.

    -          We can rest in what HE has for us.

    -          He gives us the ability to trust Him in light and dark times.

    -          -

    Jesus wants more for us and we must trust Him, even if it costs us something.  We will be challenged in the areas in which we struggle so we can grow.  The Disciples sacrificed everything, but they had no idea what they were getting with Jesus. He blew away their expectations.

    Grace and Peace,

    Merri Anne

  • Week of March 23, 2014

    John 6:35

    Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” NIV

    The Life Application Bible says this in its commentary: “People eat bread to satisfy physical hunger and to sustain physical life.  We can satisfy spiritual hunger and sustain spiritual life only by a right relationship with Jesus Christ.  No wonder he called himself the bread of life.  But bread must be eaten to sustain life, and Christ must be invited into our daily walk to sustain spiritual life.”

    As I have meditated and prayed over this text, I’ve asked myself some hard questions like, Have I hungered and thirsted for the bread of life to sustain my spiritual walk with Jesus Christ or have I only eaten bits and pieces to make sure my belly is full so I don’t get hunger pains?

    Last week, my husband Bill gave a message from his heart about what it means to eat on the” bread of life.”  The Greek word eesteo means to eat a meal only to have your belly full to sustain life.  The word trogo means to “munch” and enjoy the process of eating.  I can think back on times in my own life when most of my eating resembled eesteo.  The unfortunate thing is I wasn’t aware that this is what my spiritual walk looked like.  I was doing the right things: going to church, having devotions, doing ministry, reading my Bible, singing in the choir, and loving Jesus, but I was missing a true hunger to satisfy the needs of my spiritual life. I had times periodically, when life got hard and I turned to Jesus to get me through the struggle.  Let me say that turning to Him was the right thing to do, it’s just that seeking Him only when we need something from Him can leave us feeling empty until the next time a crisis takes place, or until we are experiencing unhappiness in life.  I didn’t understand the meaning of trogo.  

    I have been loved perfectly by Christ whether I am eating the “bread of life” just to sustain my walk or enjoying the process of munching on the “bread of life” by soaking in His Presence.  His love and acceptance of me isn’t based on my performance; however, Jesus is jealous for me because He wants me to always experience more of Him.  He wants me to enjoy every moment I spend with Him.  It is when I trogo that I am able to resist the temptations of this world and those little things in life that can steal joy on a daily basis—negativity, complaining, criticism, anger, and downright ugliness.  If truth be told, when I do visit these places, you can bet that I have been living in a spiritual walk of eesteo rather than trogo.  It is out of trogo that transformation in my life has taken place.

    Chuck has been challenging Journey for quite some time to move to the idea of trogo.  He calls it “soaking in God’s Presence.”  I’m excited to say that not only do I finally understand what trogo means, I also recognize the difference when I eesteo.  It’s interesting to me the urgency I feel now to encourage others to step into this understanding.  To see someone find joy and purpose after living a life of despair because of Christ transforming them, totally overwhelms my own spirit with joy. There is a fire that starts within that the Holy Spirit keeps fanning to spread to other believers and the world.  This is bringing heaven to earth.

    Bill introduced a group that is expanding from a class that we’ve been teaching at Journey called Firestarters.  It is through this group that we want to combine discipleship, evangelism, serving others in the Journey community and local community, as well as sharing life together.  The early church spent a lot of time together sharing life, and it was from this position that they were called out to share the Gospel of Christ. We want to do fun things and move beyond the walls of the physical building of Journey.  There are areas that we need to address though within the Journey family…sharing chores to make the house run, so to speak.  We want to love on people to the point that they can’t help but to fall in love with Jesus.

    If you would like to join the Firestarters group but didn’t have the opportunity to sign-up on Sunday, please just let me know through email, by phone (740.599.9000), or talk to me at church.  We are excited to start some spiritual fires, and we are eager to have you join us!

    I’m going to leave you with lyrics written by Matthew West called “Do Something.”  Bill showed a powerful video of Matthew in concert and sharing the story of young woman who was compelled to move out of her comfort zone and make a difference for Jesus in Africa by starting an orphanage. The thing is, we don’t have to go to Africa to do something for Jesus; we have opportunities to do something right now, where we are in our lives.

    DO SOMETHING

    Verse 1:
    I woke up this morning
    Saw a world full of trouble now
    Thought, how'd we ever get so far down
    How's it ever gonna turn around

    So I turned my eyes to Heaven
    I thought, "God, why don't You do something?"
    Well, I just couldn't bear the thought of
    People living in poverty

    Children sold into slavery
    The thought disgusted me
    So, I shook my fist at Heaven
    Said, "God, why don't You do something?"

    He said, "I did, I created you"

    Chorus:
    If not us, then who
    If not me and you
    Right now, it's time for us to do something
    If not now, then when
    Will we see an end
    To all this pain
    It's not enough to do nothing
    It's time for us to do something

    Verse 2:
    I'm so tired of talking
    About how we are God's hands and feet
    But it's easier to say than to be
    Live like angels of apathy who tell ourselves
    It's alright, "somebody else will do something"

    Well, I don't know about you
    But I'm sick and tired of life with no desire
    I don't want a flame, I want a fire
    I wanna be the one who stands up and says,
    "I'm gonna do something"

    Bridge:
    We are the salt of the earth
    We are a city on a hill (shine shine, shine shine)
    But we're never gonna change the world
    By standing still
    No we won't stand still (x3)

    Read more: Matthew West - Do Something Lyrics | MetroLyrics

     

    Grace and Peace,

    Merri Anne

     

     

  • Week of March 17, 2014

    It must really grieve Jesus when we don’t love the way He wants us to.  After all, we are supposed to love like Him, aren’t we?  So why do we do the opposite of what He told us?  In Matthew 22:37-40, He makes Himself perfectly clear to the Sadducees and Pharisees when one of them tried to trap Him by asking the question, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

    (37) Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  (38) This is the first and greatest commandment. (39) And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  (40) All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    On Sunday, Chuck read verses from this same chapter in Matthew:

    (25) “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. (26) Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. (27) Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like white-washed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. (28) In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

    The Jewish leaders were experts in the Law.  They moved, lived, and breathed the Law.  These were men who studied the Law and scriptures as their job.  While I believe that they loved God, I also believe that they loved the Law more.  They became puffed up and too self-sufficient in their knowledge.  They forgot about their Jewish forefathers:  Abraham, Moses, David, and others, who experienced God through intimacy and His glory.  They were so worried about what they looked like on the outside that they lost perspective on inner purity.

    Before I get too down on this group of misguided men, I feel it necessary to reflect on my own relationship with God.  How am I loving Him?  Am I spending too much time worrying about making sure the outside of my cup is clean rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to do housecleaning on the inside of the cup? Is my desire to rest in His Presence and listen for His voice, or is it more important for me to look super-spiritual to everyone around me?

    Chuck has been communicating to us for quite some time that we must guard our minds from the attacks of the enemy.  There is not a battle between God and Satan—he was rendered powerless at the cross. The battle is between Satan and people.  When we believe his lies in our minds we give him a foothold into our lives.  In the Matthew 23:25-28 text, Jesus warned us about three leavens. The definition of leaven:  An element, influence, or agent that works subtly to lighten, enliven, or modify a whole. 

    Legalism is a HUGE area Satan uses to attack Christians to make us live in fear and criticism. It creates rules to keep rules. Satan steals joy and peace from us because we’re so afraid of messing up.  He wants us to believe that one false move will send us to hell in a hand-basket.  This is the Leaven of the Pharisees.  Legalism gives an incorrect picture of God because it gives the impression that God says we have to live at a certain level for Him to love us.  It is impossible for us to keep the law without Christ. We don’t have to work to earn God’s favor.  He’s the God of relationship and love; therefore, He wants us to do things out of love.  Fear, doubt, and condemnation are the overflow of legalism.  There are two kinds of legalists:

    1. Those that look at God as a hard God; not loving
    2. They focus on the sin of others to make them look good

    The Leaven of the Sadducees is steeped in rituals and traditions.  The Sadducees did not have sound theology.  They didn’t believe in a supernatural God.  Many of us can get caught in ritual that is dead, losing its purpose to us.  Ritual, if unbalanced, can lead us away from the Presence of God. 

    The Leaven of Herod:  Jesus thought Herod was a man who did things for his benefit.  He was very spiritually minded, but he mixed religions together so he had no accountability.  He promoted that all roads lead to God.  In the church we can take the position that we accept all beliefs so we can be one big, happy family.  We have to have a view that leads us to the truth that Jesus is the only way to the Father.

    Recently, I learned of a situation where a beautiful Christian couple engaged to be married became pregnant before the wedding.  They announced a couple of months into the marriage that they were having a baby.  When the baby was born earlier than expected…fully developed and a hefty weight…the secret was out. They attend a very conservative church where the couples’ parents also attend.  As punishment for their bad behavior of getting pregnant out of wedlock, the couple was not given a shower by the church or family. They were a disgrace to God, the church, and to their parents.  Rather than extending grace and mercy to this young man and woman who were already feeling guilty, shame was poured on them.  Joy for the child was stolen from them throughout the pregnancy.  This situation very much hurts my heart.  I know this couple.  They are tender-hearted and love Jesus.  It’s unfortunate that they didn’t feel the love and compassion of Jesus from the most important people in their lives.

    The letter of the Law can get in the way of loving people.  That’s why Jesus explained the two essential commandments to the religious leaders.  Legalism, rituals without balance, and watered down theology destroy our intimacy our intimacy with God.  They get in the way of loving people the way Jesus did, and drawing them to the Kingdom.

    I am reminded of one of my favorite sections of scripture where Jesus showed mercy and grace through His love.  It is my desire for Him to help me love like this.

    John 8:2-11 (NIV)

    (2) At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them.  (3)The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery.  They made her stand before the group (4) and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.  (5) In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.  Now what do you say?  (6) They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

    But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.  (7) When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (8)  Again he stopped down and wrote on the ground.

    (9) At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.  (10) Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

    (11) “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”


    Chuck’s Scripture References…

    Matthew 16:5-12; Matthew 23:25-28

     

    Grace and Peace,

    Merri Anne

     

     

  • Week of March 3, 2014

    What does the normal Christian life look like to you?  If you would have asked me this question even two years ago, my answer would look and sound a lot different than it does today.  Don’t misunderstand me; two years ago I loved Jesus and wanted to live my life solely for Him. I worked at Journey and experienced the goodness of God in multiple ways.  I loved the Word of God and enjoyed sharing it with other people.  Worship was a time of special connection between God and me.  I was eager to hear teaching and to grow in my knowledge of Him.  My relationship with Him was great.  So what is the difference between then and now?

    Honestly, I think I am becoming more and more familiar with the sound of His voice, and less afraid to take the risk to step out and repeat what He says to me. This is not something that has come easily to me, nor has it happened overnight. God has helped me process the things of Him that have made me uncomfortable in the past. My faith has been pushed, prodded, and poked as God has been stretching me spiritually. Perhaps you are right there with me.

    The ladies from the Wednesday morning group have been on this walk with me for the last year and a half.  I love that there is freedom and acceptance for anyone that wants to be a part of this crazy, loving group of beautiful women!  We had a really cool experience this week, so I asked permission to tell the story of the young woman at the center of it all. I’m grateful that she agreed.

    Amanda lost her father unexpectedly on March 5, 2010. She was “daddy’s little girl” still at the age of 21. If you have dealt with the loss of a parent or loved one, you understand that the anniversary date of their death can stir-up the grief all over again.  Wednesday was the anniversary of Amanda’s father’s death.  She came to group very quiet and melancholy.  There seemed to be a heaviness in the room overall, which we determined to be from sickness, anxiety, depression, etc. that we were all experiencing.  Necessity of shaking off life compelled us to soak in His presence for a while to clear our minds so we could hear His voice.  It was determined that everyone needed time of specific prayer and words from God.  Amanda reluctantly took her turn in the “love seat.”  It’s hard making yourself vulnerable in front of others; however, tears began flowing as we prayed.  Her heartache was palpable.  God gave me a picture of Amanda and her dad dancing in their living room to classic rock, laughing and having a great time.  I asked her if that meant anything to her, and she said she used to do that with him a lot. He loved classic rock. Kimberly was given a picture of Amanda holding a balloon with words on it. That’s when the adventure with prophecy speaking destiny into someone’s life happened.

    Three of us who were able to do so took Amanda to the store to buy a balloon.  We sat packed in my car while she wrote with a Sharpie on the balloon words that described her relationship with her father. Her first word on the balloon was Daddy. She shared funny stories with us about him including one of his terms of endearment for her --“Goober.” ( This explains why many of us have earned that same nickname by Amanda.) We drove by caravan over to the baseball fields by Dan Emmett Elementary so Amanda could release the balloon in the field where she spent windy days flying kites with her dad.  We said a prayer of celebration and she let the balloon fly.  Oddly enough, the balloon took off toward the direction of the house where she grew up.  God turned a sad and heavy hearted day into a time of joy and release of grief…all from a picture He gave to another person.

    Chuck has been helping us to understand prophecy the last few weeks.  What is prophecy?  It’s hearing the voice of the Father and repeating it. When we pray and listen, God will share His heart with us. We are to lay our burdens at His feet to make space for us to rest so we can hear from Him.  Paul states that he wants us to pursue prophecy so we can hear the voice of God.

    I guess I tell this story because it reflects what Chuck has been talking about and having us practice.  God spoke specifically to us on behalf of Amanda.  I would venture to say that if we had not taken the time to become quiet before God to get rid of the distracting voices in our heads caused by the enemy distorting our thinking, we probably would not have had the same outcome in praying for Amanda. He had to take our thoughts into captivity and replace them with His thoughts so we could hear only His voice.

    Here is my answer to the initial question as it pertains to me today:  My normal Christian life now includes knowing the sound of my Father’s voice.  It is having the Holy Spirit unveil truths in scripture that I’ve never seen before.  It is pursuing all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, not only the ones that make me comfortable.  I’m not going to pretend that I have it all figured out because my journey is about progress, not perfection.  I am hungry for whatever His goodness looks like even if it doesn’t look like what I think it should look like. I trust that He is equipping me to be a carrier of His presence in every moment of every day, although some moments are a whole lot better than other moments because I am human.  I now understand that the Holy Spirit resides in me and I have access to everything of Him.

    This is what the normal Christian life looks like to me today.

     

    Chuck’s Reference…

    John 14:12-14; I John 3:18; I Corinthians 14:26; Ephesians 4:11-13; I Corinthians 12:4-11

     

    Grace and Peace,

    Merri Anne

     

     

  • Week of  February 23, 2014

     

    When our youngest son turned 13 I was trying to think of something out of the ordinary to do for him to celebrate this monumental birthday. Sure, we could have spent an enormous amount of money to make it a national holiday but I felt that he needed something beyond the material world.  As I was driving I asked God to give me an idea.  Almost immediately the thought came to me that as with most adolescent boys, Greg heard quite a lot of correction for his behavior: obnoxious comments, unkind words to his sister, back talk, jumping off of the second story back deck to make the perfect trick shot into the basketball hoop.  You know what I’m talking about.  Anyway, I felt like God was saying to me, “What if you spoke life into him? What would that do for his spirit?” I contacted our other children and his grandparents to ask them to seek God for words about Greg that they could share with him on his birthday.  They loved the idea! I could never have asked for the moment to be more precious. Greg is kind of introverted so I wasn’t sure how he would receive the public attention. (There was a time when he hated to open gifts in front of people.) Before he opened his birthday gifts, each family member took a turn in speaking life-giving words over Greg; words that reflected the beautiful things about him as a person. There were also some prophetic words of what God had in mind for him in the future.  Rather than the mortified look of embarrassment that I feared, Greg’s countenance revealed a young boy who knew he was loved greatly.  He knew that God loved him and had a purpose for his life.  That picture will forever be etched on the wall of my memory.

    That family story comes to my mind when I hear questions asked as to why Chuck is spending a lot of time on the spiritual gifts, particularly the gifts of prophecy and words of knowledge.  This week Chuck continued his series about hearing the voice of God.  He shared that we hear God speaking in a variety of ways.  Scripture is a picture of God’s heart, and through the power of the Holy Spirit the words become a live in us.  What challenges our theology is the fact that God’s voice is not limited to speaking to us only through scripture.  We’ve been learning that He uses our minds and imagination to uncover His secret thoughts.  It’s through the power of the Holy Spirit that we have the opportunity to encourage, strengthen, and comfort others through words He gives us. 

    A young man named Benjamin came forward at the end of service on Sunday after volunteering to allow others to give him prophetic words and words of knowledge.  Talk about vulnerability!  This was Benjamin’s first time to Journey, which meant that he was known only by a couple of people.  He was courageous to stand in front of 150 people he didn’t know and let them say things they felt God could be telling them about him. Chuck set ground rules:  nothing negative or criticizing could be said, as well as things like I see you getting a life threatening disease.  Anything we share should come from a place of honor and love to encourage, strengthen, and comfort.  There are times that God might give words that are of a more personal nature which should be shared with the individual privately.  Seeking God’s discernment is imperative.  It is also important to keep in mind that we prophesy in part because we aren’t Jesus, so there will be times we hit the mark. There will also be times that what we say doesn’t resonate with the individual. I try to remember that God is always at work behind the scenes and something that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense today could become an “aha” moment later.

    Benjamin had several things that seemed to click with him from the words spoken.  I think that what sticks out to me in the whole process of sharing prophecy and words of knowledge is that if it’s done through the power of the Holy Spirit in an honoring and loving fashion, what’s the worst thing that can happen?  Perhaps they will realize that they are loved by Jesus as a child of the One True King. There’s no doubt to me that Benjamin walked away from the experience with that realization.

    I would like to encourage you to seek God for yourself about how you can walk in the gifts of prophecy and words of knowledge.  You might be totally freaked out by that thought for reasons of fear, inadequacy, unworthiness, and numerous other lies that the enemy wants to put on you to keep from breathing life into someone else.  If you are walking in “stinkin’ thinkin’” as I like to call it, ask God to replace the lies with HIS truths.  We are all called to be His ambassadors…even you.

    I Corinthians 14:1-5

    “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.  For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God.  Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit.  But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church.  I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy.  The one who prophesies is greater than the one speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edfied.”

    Grace and Peace,

    Merri Anne

     

     

  • Week of  February 17, 2014

     

     

    Journey has a dynamic ladies group that meets on Wednesday mornings at 9:30. (By the way, all ladies are invited to join us.) I love that they are insatiably hungry for more of God and are willing to take risks to get there. A year and half ago when we began meeting, I had to prod and poke to get them to step out in prayer and share their hearts with each other. Oh, my goodness! What a difference it makes when we open ourselves up to more of Him!

    After Chuck’s first message of the series Hearing and Sharing the Voice of God, I saw a few of the ladies strategizing in one of the front rows of the sanctuary. I knew something was up. As I approached I heard them talking about the impact of the end of the service when several people stood up in front of the congregation (in response to Chuck’s request) and gave words that God had placed in their spirits for someone there. It was amazing to hear what God had given to encourage and breathe life into specific individuals. Anyway, the girls turned to me and said, “We want to go on a treasure hunt on Wednesday.” (If you don’t know what a treasure hunt is I’ll explain a little. You pray that God will show you clues about someone who needs prayer and encouragement. A clue could be a place, color of clothing, gender, etc. Really, anything that God puts in your mind. If a group of people are asking God for clues then you put the information together and go on the treasure hunt.) Let me say right now that the idea of a treasure hunt absolutely freaks me out and is totally out of my comfort zone. I’m an extravert, but the notion that I’m going to go up to a complete stranger and ask if I can pray for them based on facts that may or may not be accurate nearly sends me over the edge. I shared exactly that when they looked at me for confirmation of the activity. There was some agreement in the discomfort, but they would not be dissuaded. I sighed and knew I had to step up to the plate as the group facilitator.

    Between Sunday and Wednesday, I spent a lot of time reflecting on Chuck’s message. Some of the information he shared was not new to me because God has been stretching me over the last couple of years through teaching from Chuck and various speakers. It’s funny how God works—the more open I become to receiving more of Him, the more the information I have heard before has a whole new meaning. One statement he made on Sunday is that we can become content in church and lower our expectations of what God can do. Although Scripture is the number one way God gives His message to us, He is not limited to just that. God speaks through many different ways. Prophecy is hearing God’s voice and repeating it. We hear it through the Holy Spirit. Why does God need to speak apart from the scripture? The scripture verifies what we hear. Paul says in I Corinthians 14:3…”But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.”   God points out the things that will edify (strengthen), encourage, and comfort others to help refine the gold in them. Sometimes we need someone to call forth our destiny. As we pray and seek God’s discernment, which is a gift from Him, He will give us the words we need. The more we are faithful with our words the more He’ll give us.

    In getting myself psyched up for the big treasure hunt on Wednesday, I asked Bill his thoughts. My husband is a man who chooses his words carefully and is a bit reserved. The whole treasure hunt adventure would not be in his top 10 ten things to do. But like me, Bill is also on a journey to be more open to the possibilities of God doing whatever He wants to do. It turns out that Bill had been thinking about having the courage to step out in healing and speaking words of knowledge and prophecy. God knows us so well…Bill not only speaks the English language, but he also speaks Sports language. He shared with me the following notation he had made while soaking with God:

    “Everyone has to dribble, but some are guards.  Not all guards are gifted.  Some just work harder to develop their skill.  Some players know they'd have to dribble, but don't want to practice because they think they can get by without it, or they think they will let the gifted dribblers take care of it.”

    What does that mean to us who are risking experiencing more of God through spiritual gifts? It means that there are those who seem to carry particular gifts like healing and prophecy, but that doesn’t mean they are the only ones to carry out God’s work. Most of the time it’s because they have practiced and their faith increased because they just went for it. The same is true with us. It isn’t about our performance and being super gifted. It is about listening to the voice of God and trusting Him to use us, even in a moment’s notice. The power comes from Him not us. We are so afraid to take a risk because we will be wrong; therefore, it is easier to allow someone else to just handle it.

    Wednesday morning I woke up praying for courage and boldness. “God, I don’t want to make you look stupid.” Really? It was more like, “I don’t want to look stupid.” I came into the office about 7:30 in the morning so I could soak, pray, and pour over the scriptures. Much to my surprise, I kind of got into the images that were coming to my mind. He put on my heart people that needed the blessing of our ladies praying for them. He also gave me some specific clues for the treasure hunt which I questioned over and over. In the back of my mind I was holding out that when the girls arrived at church they wouldn’t feel like going on the treasure hunt, after all. (I would secretly do a fist pump!) Well, that didn’t happen. When they arrived they seemed a little nervous, but not enough to call off the mission. They sat down with me to compare notes and pray. We shared our clues, came up with a semi-game plan, and piled into cars.

    Our first stop was kind of a practice run because it was a more familiar environment.  God’s presence was incredibly thick as we prayed. I was blown away by what God gave the girls to share. There was strengthening, encouragement, and comfort in our moments together. Our faith was increased and lives were touched. Mission accomplished. The caravan then proceeded to a restaurant in downtown Mount Vernon.

    I was instructed that I would be taking the lead on this treasure hunt since I came up with the location and clues about the person we were looking for—me and my big mouth! One of the girls came up with the color purple so she was my designated sidekick.  As we ate lunch I peered around the room in search of the targeted treasure. No one fit the description. I was relieved and disappointed at the same time. A few minutes later the door opened and a person kind of fitting the description came in and sat down. He was carrying a black satchel instead of a black purse, had dark hair, had a stack of papers in front of him, and seemed very overwhelmed and stressed. This was the picture I had in my mind earlier that morning, except he was a she in my mind. He wasn’t wearing a black coat, though. It was purple.

    My hands immediately began sweating and I squirmed uncontrollably in my seat. I felt like I was getting ready to take my driver’s test or something. I watched him wring his hands and rub his eyes. My sidekick and I hemmed and hawed for a few minutes, trying to decide if this was the person. I even tried to push off the praying part to one of the girls saying that I came up with the clue so someone else could do the rest…that didn’t fly.  It was time to step out in courage and boldness with the Holy Spirit leading the way.

    We got up from our table and started to approach the man. A friend had just joined him for lunch—great! We continued to the table and I rambled something about my friends and me from church having lunch, and that we felt compelled to see if he would be open to us praying for him because he seemed a little stressed. To be honest, I was ready to run if he seemed the least bit put off by us invading his space. Instead, he smiled and shared with us the reason why he was stressed, which was nothing like I thought it would be. We talked for a couple of minutes and then we prayed for him and the other gentleman. He shared his name (it was not the name that a couple of us had gotten in our pre-mission meeting) and introduced his friend. We gave a blessing over them and bid farewell. I should mention that I would not approach a person of the opposite sex if I were alone. The girls were with me and we were in a room full of people. There was nothing inappropriate about the situation.

    Looking back to two days ago, I don’t remember how I got to the man’s table, or even what I said. That usually means that the Holy Spirit took over in my weakness. The encounter didn’t turn out exactly how the picture in my mind looked, but God moved anyway. The benefit of us not being God is that He knows all that’s going on behind the scenes. Personally, I don’t think I could handle all of that information. The worst case scenario is that the man walked away knowing that God loved him enough that He sent two crazy ladies to pray for him in the middle of a restaurant. Mission accomplished.

    Chuck’s Scripture References…

    I Corinthians 14:1-3

     

    Grace and Peace,

    Merri Anne

     

  • Week of 10 February 2014

    It was so wonderful having the Hagy’s back with us after their time of rest. While we are grateful for the movement of God through Vic Cales and Jim Baker, having Chuck share with us Sunday morning was an incredible blessing. I’m always anxious to hear what God talked to Chuck about during his vacation every year, because I know that Journey will receive a unique vision of growth for our church family. Plus, I am always personally challenged in my spiritual growth.

    Briefly, Chuck shared that over the next few weeks he will be speaking on “hearing and sharing the voice of God.” Since God is all about communication it’s no wonder that when we spend intimate time with Him, we become open to the various ways that He connects with us. When we learn to listen to the voice of God we are able to speak life into others which edifies Him, and we become carriers of His presence.

    Before heading into that series, Chuck was prompted to speak to us on Sunday about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is a topic that can bring controversy in the church, often times scaring pastors into avoidance.  It is because of this avoidance that a doctrinal view was taken on scripture, excluding experience with the Holy Spirit, and creating a theological view of explaining away the experience. Many of us go through life with just theological knowledge without experience.

    Luke 3:15-16: “The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John (the Baptist) might possibly be the Messiah.  John answered them all, “I baptize you with water.  But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

    -          John the Baptist explains that when Jesus and the Holy Spirit come things will be different.

    Acts 1:4-8:  “On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

    -          This was the fulfillment of the prophecy John spoke about.

    Acts 2:1-4:  “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.  Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”

    -          The disciples had been praying and experiencing intimacy with God BEFORE the power of God showed up through the Holy Spirit.

    If you know God and you experience Him, you receive the Holy Spirit. Have you ever noticed how zealous brand new Christians are about Christ? They have great expectations of getting more of God. They are hungry.  I love spending time with those who newly discover the love of Christ because it creates a yearning in me. Their enthusiasm for the things of God inspires me to pursue more of Him.

    Most likely your religious background has influenced your perception of what being baptized in the Holy Spirit is in Christianity. For years my perception of being baptized in the Holy Spirit was synonymous with speaking in tongues. This is not truth. The gift of tongues is only one of the many gifts the Holy Spirit gives to us, and Paul says that it is not the most important of the gifts. In the scripture referenced in Acts 2 it’s important to recognize what happened to the disciples after they were baptized in the Holy Spirit:

    • After this experience they were different
    • They became bold and courageous
    • They learned that the message of the Good News and baptism of the Holy Spirit wasn’t just for them, but for all Believers

    When we have a love encounter with Christ for the first time it begins in intimacy. There is a process.

    Conviction – of the Holy Spirit (The Father draws us to Him.)

    Redemption – God forgives when we repent – we are justified and declared righteous

    Regeneration – We are given a new heart which is made alive

    Given Access to the power of God – Unfortunately, some don’t walk in the access

    Water Baptism – Baptism is a picture of what has been done in the previous four steps…it is the marriage ceremony. Baptism does not add to salvation.


    We all have arrived at Journey from different backgrounds. Chuck explained the beliefs of various denominations regarding the Holy Spirit.  Some believe that the Holy Spirit is received at infant baptism and becomes reality later as a teenager and adult. Several denominations believe that we always receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit at conversion. There are those who believe that there is a second blessing, or another work of the Holy Spirit.  Still others believe that the Holy Spirit comes after salvation. In the west, we try to figure out the order of things; however, God is big and doesn’t always do things the same way. God’s order doesn’t always look like our order. Throughout Acts we see the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in various ways.

    The point is this: It will happen when God wants it to happen through our intimate relationship with Him. It will be evident in our love for Him and others, the amount of joy in our lives, and our being clothed in His power. We mustn’t place too much emphasis on the “when.”

    There are three steps that can be helpful in seeking more of God. We cannot compare our experiences.

    1.)    Recognize how much we need Him because without Him we are powerless. If we don’t experience the movement of God then there will be no transformation in our lives.

    2.)    We must hunger for more of Him. This is a gift. He gives a longing for His presence and secret place with Him.

    3.)    We seek to be used by God for His glory and power.

    Billy Graham says, “You don’t ask for power you don’t intend to use.”

    Chuck advised us at Journey to refrain from asking people if they’ve received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Instead, the question should be about their intimacy with God.  He also said that we should be focused on current relationships, and to remember that the presence of God brings freedom. We are worthy because we are in Christ.

    Grace and Peace,

    Merri Anne

     

     

  • Week of 17 November 2013

     

    I am going to share a God moment I witnessed a week ago that still brings tears to my eyes.  Because it is not my story to tell, I first had to ask permission to write about it publicly from the individual that experienced the movement of God first-hand.

    Chuck and I had a lunch meeting at a restaurant in Mount Vernon last Wednesday.  As usual, we both brought prepared lists of topics we needed to discuss concerning the upcoming months at Journey.  Now, as you can well imagine, a meeting with Chuck is never dull. We have the business we need to take care of, but there’s always time to cast vision for the future.  It seems like every time I’ve had a meeting with him in a restaurant someone inevitably is drawn to his joy and kindness. This meeting was no exception.

    Our server was friendly and pleasant, with a sense of humor that made it easy to joke with her.  During the course of our dining experience we learned that she was a single mom living in Mount Vernon only a few months.  You could tell that she was drawn to us because she made several trips to our table to check on us and talk. When her shift ended she thanked us for coming in and wanted to let us know that she enjoyed serving us.  I watched her walk away, and as I turned back toward Chuck he said to me, “I think I have a word from God for her.”  Some would be offended by his claim that he had a word from God, but I am here to say that in that moment when I looked at him, I saw the presence of God on his face.  It overwhelmed me to the point of tears.  I could see it in his eyes and in the expression on his face.  There was absolutely no doubt that God had moved in Chuck!  I responded by saying, “I KNOW you have a word…I see it on your face.”  It took him a second to process what was happening—should he go find her or wait for her to come back?  He ended up going to find her.  I was praying the whole time for her, for him, and thanking God for whatever it was that had just happened.  Ten minutes later both Chuck and the server came back to the table.  She had obviously been crying, but there was a look of dismay on her face.  She kept saying she couldn’t believe it.  How could it be that this man knew about her life? She proceeded to share a couple of things that had happened to her and how she wanted to find a church.  Although I had mentioned earlier that we attended a church in Howard, up until this point she had no idea Chuck was a pastor.  After she left us at the table, Chuck shared some of the things that he told her.  I can’t divulge the details, but suffice it to say that he told her about her life and God’s purpose in it.  He said as soon as he said it she began sobbing.  I pray that we will see this lovely lady again in the near future.

    It is no coincidence that this God appointed encounter happened during Chuck’s current series When God Moves.  Chuck was as stunned as I was when I saw his face.  God moved and it was visible, and I was a witness!  Neither of us were anticipating it while discussing business and eating lunch. Chuck was just being Chuck.  I was just being me doing my job.  I believe to the core of my being that this encounter happened because Chuck spends time in the presence of God on a continual basis. He recognized the movement of the Holy Spirit because he knows Him intimately.  Is it because Chuck is the perfect Christian?  No, because there are no perfect people.  However, Chuck has been learning how to steward the presence of God well in his life.  God has been refining the gold in him for quite some time, and because Chuck has trusted Him with the natural life, God trusted him with a supernatural experience. God poured His love on this beautiful, broken-hearted woman, who is just trying to make it in this world. Christ’s love was at the center of everything that went on that day. Chuck just pursued what God was asking him to do.

    Why would I say that some might be offended by Chuck’s claim to get a word from God? Because it’s true!  When the movement of God doesn’t fit in the comfortable place where we like to keep Him, it is offensive.  We don’t like to be out of our comfort zones.  Chuck said that it is harder for him to give a prophetic word to a stranger than it is to pray for healing for someone with their leg in a cast.  I couldn’t agree more!  It’s difficult to make ourselves vulnerable to the unknown.  I guess that’s why God wants us to trust Him with the risk.

    Chuck shared on Sunday some areas that can trip us up when processing the supernatural works of God:

    1.)    Mental Grids…We try to explain away anything we experience that is not in our belief system. We can only walk spiritually in the experience that our mental grids allow. This is very difficult for most of us in the United States because we don’t experience the demonic supernatural like voodoo or witchcraft.  When someone comes to Christ who has lived in the demonic world, they think something is wrong when they don’t experience the supernatural world of the heavenly realms.

    2.)    Pride…We become so conscious of what we will look like to others. We take ourselves so seriously.  Don’t we owe people an encounter with the living God?

    3.)    Interpretation of Scripture…We put God in a box because of our interpretation of His word. We bring in dispensationalism, as well as trying to come up with theological reasons to explain away the movement of the Holy Spirit.

    Chuck gave the following as an example of how a scripture can be misinterpreted:

     I Corinthians 13:8-12:

    “Love never fails.  But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.”

    This scripture has been misinterpreted to mean that the spiritual gifts ceased after the apostolic age. That’s why many become offended when the Spirit manifests through supernatural acts like words of knowledge, healings, laughing, shaking, or having to lay down because of His overwhelming presence. When Paul wrote of the knowing “fully”, he was referring to when we must see Jesus face to face.  At that point we will have no need to speak for Him because we’ll be with Him. God gives believers spiritual gifts for their lives on earth in order to build up, serve, and strengthen others, as well as spread the love of Christ to further His kingdom. Everything that Jesus did on earth was through the power of the Holy Spirit because he came as a man.  He showed how we can live as humans.  We are to do what Jesus did because He lives in us. He left earth so the Holy Spirit could come and reside in us when we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior.  It was necessary for Him to go back to the Father so that we could access the same power He accessed during His ministry on earth.

    I have a hand-written reminder hanging on the wall above my desk in the church office.  It reads: Our Journey is about progress, not perfection. I capitalized the “J” because of the double meaning of my personal journey, and that of Journey Church.  I embrace the fact that I’m in process while progressing in my journey, allowing God out of the box that I’ve kept Him in for so long.  Journey Church, as a body, has been experiencing the same thing.

    When I saw God’s presence on Chuck’s face in the restaurant, a deeper yearning happened inside of me to pursue even more of Him. My prayer is that when the Spirit moves I know because of the intimacy I have with Him.

    God’s intention is that we receive and live in the supernatural.  The level of revelation we walk in is the revelation we will experience or receive.  I hunger for more and more of His revelation so I can experience all of Him.

    Chuck’s Scripture References…

    Acts 2:1-18; John 6:60-63; John 14:6-14; Mark 16:15-18; I Corinthians 13:8-12

     

     Grace and peace,


    Merri Anne

     

     

     

  • Week of 3 November 2013

     

    Bill and I were talking the other day about songs we can’t stand on the radio. It began as we were driving and the song came on by Billy Joel, “Only the Good Die Young”.  The song intimates that being a good girl is boring, and that it’s worth going to hell, if you are having a good time. What a wonderful thought---not!  Well, that got me thinking about other songs that rub me the wrong way. At the top of my list (and Bill’s list, too) is “From a Distance” by Bette Midler.  I’m sure you probably are familiar with it.  It talks about the fact that God is there, but He is far away from us. He basically just keeps an eye on what’s going on in our lives. Whether Bette Midler wrote the song or someone else did, they most likely were thinking it was inspirational to know God is out there somewhere. For a Christian who seeks a relationship with God, it leaves more of a hopeless feeling because they know that there is so much more He wants for us.

     

    It is the “more” that has been a main focus at Journey over the last two years.  Chuck’s challenge of asking God to give us “more” of Him at any cost has been a process for most of us. Let me just say that for me, the process has been worth it. There has been an awakening inside of me spiritually in areas that I didn’t even know were asleep. Don’t misunderstand me; I have had a good relationship with Christ for a long time. However, I haven’t always been open to experiencing Him to the fullest. There were too many areas in my life that were dictated by fear, like in finances and rejection. There were times that my life lacked joy because I allowed anxiety to consume me. I believed that God could take care of things, but it was difficult for me to relinquish control.  Anxiety produces panic, and panic produces unwise decisions and joyless living.

     

    When Chuck finished his serious Kingdom Generosity a couple of weeks ago, I realized that it was so much more than just sermons about being a generous giver.  Being generous is just an overflow of what God is doing when we are awakened to His love, and have surrendered to Him the things that have held us in bondage.  As a result of seeking intimacy with Him, and allowing His love to heal our broken hearts and renew our minds, our eyes are opened to a whole new way of life. We aren’t satisfied with being a nominal Christian. The “aha” moment comes when we see that we can have more than the hope of going to heaven one day, but that there is a present hope that transforms our lives. I have imprinted on my mind two things that He had us think about:

       1.) Trust God with the natural things of this world.

       2.) As we trust Him with the natural things, He can trust us with the supernatural things.

    In Christ (seated with Christ in heavenly places), we are righteous and have authority over the enemy. We are adopted from what He has done for us because His victory becomes our victory. Abundant life in Him is ours now! There is an inheritance we receive from everything He has done.  Jesus wants for us to bring heaven to earth daily.

     

    It is because of what Christ did on the cross that we have access to what the Holy Spirit does supernaturally.  Unfortunately, when we don’t recognize that we are sons and daughters of our Father, we fail to access what He’s already given.  Jesus relinquished His power when He became man. He accessed the power of the Holy Spirit to do all that He did.  We have the same access to “more”, like Jesus.

    I have been blessed to watch so many experience the “more” of God that Chuck has been talking about. There is a hunger within that is transforming lives left and right.  When I am in the presence of individuals who are voraciously seeking God, it is contagious!  The anticipation of what God is going to do next is bringing a joy over our people that I have never seen before. It is uncontainable.

     

    Last weekend was a prime example of what happens when we yield ourselves fully to seeking more of Him. Scott and Lacey Thompson, along with their ministry team from Bethel Atlanta, were used greatly to impact the Kingdom. How wonderful it was to share the experience with Vineyard Church, as well as the other churches represented from JSM.  Lives were changed forever as a result of the movement of the Holy Spirit.

     

    While I see people experiencing the “more” of God, I also know that there are still many questions as to why certain things happen; such as, healings.  If you are still having questions, may I encourage you by saying that it’s okay to question.  I have had many questions along the way, but in questioning I’ve had to open myself up to God for the answers.  Some of the answers haven’t necessarily been comfortable in the moment, but He has been faithful to walk with me as I’ve processed them.  I have experienced incredible growth in the journey.  Through it all, God has used Chuck and others to come alongside me to challenge me to change the mental grid in which I’ve formed opinions and thoughts. Once I opened myself up to this paradigm shift, transformation took place.

     

    Chuck’s Scripture References…

     Isaiah 60:1-3; Ephesians 1:18-19; Matthew 6:6

     

    Grace and peace,

    Merri Anne

     

     

     

  • Week of 20 October 2013

     

    Distortion:  A distortion is a change, twist, or exaggeration that makes something appear different from the way it really is.  You distort an image, a thought, or even an idea. To say that I never take out the garbage is a distortion of the facts.  (vocabulary.com)

     

    When I read this definition I am convicted about how often I might distort things in my life. I think that the enemy loves to use our thoughts and words to distract us from communicating truthfully, or to keep us from having proper perspective regarding situations, people, and ourselves.  He also uses distortion in how we see God.

     

    In Chuck’s sermon series Kingdom Generosity, he has been talking about what happens to us when our view of our finances becomes distorted. His goal in this series is not to turn us all into ”givers”, but rather to help us become set free from our distortions regarding money, whether we have a little or we have a lot. Jesus wants us to live a life of joy and abundance. If we walk around in a state of distortion then we will not be able to live the way Jesus wants us to live.

     

    So, what are the ways we distort our finances?  First of all, in many Christian circles it is believed that we should take a vow of poverty; in other words, we should be poor. It appears that possibly the following scripture has been distorted:

    “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Luke 6:20 (NIV)

    There is no evidence that Jesus was any poorer than most first-century Palestinians: rather, Jesus became poor by giving up his rights as God and becoming human.  He did not have a pauper mentality, and neither should we.  A pauper mentality can lead to worry about finances.  Worry distorts our thinking enough that we don’t live a life of generosity.

     

    Another distortion has to do with the idea of prosperity.  The worldly definition of prosperity has everything to do with success and good fortune. There are Christians who teach that God wants us all to be prosperous by the world’s definition. God’s definition of the word is not the same as the world’s definition.  God wants us to be prosperous so that we can be generous, and not for the sake of hoarding it for ourselves. Is it okay to have financial wealth and nice things? Absolutely. The distortion comes when we live in fear that we will run out of money, which makes us hoard what we have; or perhaps, we just want to spend it on ourselves and not share with others.

     

    Now, there are those who believe that the more we give will earn eternal blessings.  Distortion…we cannot buy God.  Just because we are givers doesn’t mean that we trust God.  We can give out of fear that something will happen to us if we don’t give.  We can give to draw attention to ourselves.  We can also give to earn favor with God.  God wants us to walk in the truth that we are saved by grace. Jesus already paid the price for our lives and His grace is never-ending. Generosity is our response to His grace. The motive cannot be to give so that we can get.

     

    Here is a fact:  Our faith does not move God because He’s already moved. Our faith connects us to what He has already done.  He wants us to trust that He will meet all of our needs. The whole Christian life is based on our faith and trust.  Jesus died on the cross for us, and it wasn’t because we earned it.

     

    Chuck challenged us further with three thoughts:

     

    Right Perspective:  We are not owners of our stuff—God is. We are stewards of what He has given us.

     

    Right Motive:  We give from what we are given by God.  He gives us more so we can give more.

     

    Right Attitude:  Our generosity should come from a position of joy. We choose to be generous from a heart that trusts in His provision.

     

    When we sow seeds for the Kingdom then the harvest will be greater to reap to bless others.  Jesus said that it is impossible to walk in the Kingdom at hand if we can’t surrender what we possess.  If we are at a point in our finances that we lose the need to trust God, then perhaps we have too much.

     

    God has been preparing Journey for something big for the Kingdom.  Revival comes through the generosity of people.  I believe that we are being asked to reflect with God about our own hearts concerning generosity.  An honest question would be: Am I living a life of Kingdom Generosity?

     

    Chuck’s Scripture References…

    II Corinthians 8:9-10; 9:6-11; Matthew 6:26; Ephesians 2:8-9; Proverbs 11:24-25; 3:9-10; 9:11; Luke 6:38-39

     

    Grace and Peace,

    Merri Anne

  • Week of 30 September 2013

    I guess it was about two years ago this fall that I attended a concert at MVNU featuring the band Leeland.  They performed a song called The Great Awakening that seemed to stick in my brain. The song was inspired by a poem written by Lawrence Tribble during the Great Awakening movement in the 1700’s:

    One man wakes, awakens another
    Second one wakes his next door brother
    Three awake can rouse a town
    And turn the whole place upside down
    Many awake will cause such a fuss
    It finally awakes all of us
    One man wakes with dawn in his eyes
    Surely then it multiplies
    Surely then it multiplies

    During the period of The Great Awakening, George Whitfield and Jonathan Edwards preached that God yearned to have something more personal with us…a relationship.  They carried on the ministry that John Wesley had begun just a couple years earlier.  This Great Awakening movement would change the course of religion in America.  Leeland writes in his blog the reason he was inspired to write the song, “I believe God is resurrecting 200 year old lyrics because America is ready for another move of God in our nation again.”  I think JourneyFest 2013 was a reflection of the sentiment of both men.

    The movement of the Holy Spirit was so evident in both services Sunday morning.  Ben Fitzgerald carried this awakening to Journey through the words of his testimony and the power of God.  Heart healings occurred along with some physical healings.  The presence of God was so thick in worship.  Daniel and Natalia also were used to awaken us through testimony and prophetic worship. Lives were changed as God poured His amazing love out on all of those who were there. There are really no adequate words to describe the goodness of God that took place at Journey Sunday morning.

    The goodness of God didn’t stop in the morning!  The fellowship and fun at King Beach in the afternoon was amazing.  Nearly 200 people joined together to have a meal together, worship with the band on the beach, witnessed the proclamations of individuals declaring their love for Christ through baptism, and finally through the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.  It was a beautiful time in the life of the Journey family.

    JourneyFest was just the beginning of what this next year is going to look like at Journey. This awakening movement will be continuing through JSM beginning this Sunday evening, September 15 @ 5:00 pm.  For those who are unable to attend the ministry school or who feel that they just aren’t ready, a class entitled The Deeper Life will be offered at the beginning of October during the 9:00 am service time on Sunday mornings. More information will follow regarding this class.  In addition, there will be several conferences and special speakers that will be coming throughout the year to encourage us in furthering the Kingdom of God.

    God has some extraordinary plans for you and Journey Church.  Today and every day we can rest in the fact that He loves us completely.  May we continue to seek Him so that this spiritual awakening will impact our lives and the lives of others

    Grace and Peace, Merri Anne

  • Week of 8 September 2013

    I guess it was about two years ago this fall that I attended a concert at MVNU featuring the band Leeland.  They performed a song called The Great Awakening that seemed to stick in my brain. The song was inspired by a poem written by Lawrence Tribble during the Great Awakening movement in the 1700’s:

    One man wakes, awakens another
    Second one wakes his next door brother
    Three awake can rouse a town
    And turn the whole place upside down
    Many awake will cause such a fuss
    It finally awakes all of us
    One man wakes with dawn in his eyes
    Surely then it multiplies
    Surely then it multiplies

    During the period of The Great Awakening, George Whitfield and Jonathan Edwards preached that God yearned to have something more personal with us…a relationship.  They carried on the ministry that John Wesley had begun just a couple years earlier.  This Great Awakening movement would change the course of religion in America.  Leeland writes in his blog the reason he was inspired to write the song, “I believe God is resurrecting 200 year old lyrics because America is ready for another move of God in our nation again.”  I think JourneyFest 2013 was a reflection of the sentiment of both men.

    The movement of the Holy Spirit was so evident in both services Sunday morning.  Ben Fitzgerald carried this awakening to Journey through the words of his testimony and the power of God.  Heart healings occurred along with some physical healings.  The presence of God was so thick in worship.  Daniel and Natalia also were used to awaken us through testimony and prophetic worship. Lives were changed as God poured His amazing love out on all of those who were there. There are really no adequate words to describe the goodness of God that took place at Journey Sunday morning.

    The goodness of God didn’t stop in the morning!  The fellowship and fun at King Beach in the afternoon was amazing.  Nearly 200 people joined together to have a meal together, worship with the band on the beach, witnessed the proclamations of individuals declaring their love for Christ through baptism, and finally through the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.  It was a beautiful time in the life of the Journey family.

    JourneyFest was just the beginning of what this next year is going to look like at Journey. This awakening movement will be continuing through JSM beginning this Sunday evening, September 15 @ 5:00 pm.  For those who are unable to attend the ministry school or who feel that they just aren’t ready, a class entitled The Deeper Life will be offered at the beginning of October during the 9:00 am service time on Sunday mornings. More information will follow regarding this class.  In addition, there will be several conferences and special speakers that will be coming throughout the year to encourage us in furthering the Kingdom of God.

    God has some extraordinary plans for you and Journey Church.  Today and every day we can rest in the fact that He loves us completely.  May we continue to seek Him so that this spiritual awakening will impact our lives and the lives of others.

     .

     Grace and Peace, Merri Anne

  • Week of 26 August 2013

    I guess I noticed it for the first time a few years ago.  Bill and I began leading the young adult small group at Journey, and we had a blast doing it.  I think there were about 20 mid-twenty somethings that attended every Sunday evening.  In my mind I was the same age as these cool and hip young adults; however, chronologically, I could have been a mother to most of them.  It was a surreal moment when that reality smacked me in the face!  As for Bill, he’s always cool.  Anyway, after we met a few times I began to see that the way Bill and I had led small groups in the past wasn’t necessarily resonating with this group.  Of course they loved and respected us, but it became very clear that this younger generation needed to discuss more than to hear straight teaching.  I think the word that could be used to describe the atmosphere of the group would be “organic.” They loved to sit and discuss topics in depth and unpack scripture in a relatively unstructured way.  There was an authenticity in how they related to one another, nothing contrived. They were interested in doing service projects and doing ministry.  One individual volunteered several times a month with the Fruit of the Vine ministry in Columbus to minister to the homeless.  I was impacted by how it was very natural for them to be real.

    Chris’ message yesterday reminded me of our young adult small group. His title The Return to Authenticityconfirmed to me my previous observations.  I was blessed with Chris’ own authenticity.  He not only shared the perspective of other “Millennials,” he also talked about issues he has been contemplating himself.  In his message he quoted from an article entitled Why Are Millennials Leaving the Church? By Rachel Held Evans, CNN Belief Blogger.  www.religion.blogs.cnn/2013/07.com  The article is definitely worth taking time to read.

    He pointed out that churches in centuries past spread because of their simplicity, and it seems that there is an awakening happening today to this reality.  It’s safe to say that for most churches strategies are not simple. So what does it look like to be an authentic Christian in the 21st Century?  This is the question that Millennials are asking, but so are other generations.  There is room for intellectual integrity AND faith.  We can have compassion AND holiness.  We need to be on the front of the train not in the caboose, when it comes to social issues.  Jesus isn’t scared of people who sin or sin itself; we serve a big God that can handle big stuff.

    Consumerism is another area that seems to be a deterrent to the twenty-somethings attending corporate worship.  The big, comfortable, inviting buildings are not as important as we would like them to be.  They don’t want to be sold another product, because to them, authenticity always trumps “cool-ness”.  For so many people church has become habit, and they end up hiding behind a façade. It’s more important to see people get in the trenches like Jesus.  It’s about inviting people into a way of life, not just a Sunday morning experience.

    I think it’s important to remember that these questions and thoughts are not coming out of a place of judgment, and it certainly doesn’t mean that every church is consumer-driven or non-authentic.  These are things that as Christians we all need to be thinking about as we long to further the kingdom.  I know for myself, I have to constantly ask God to take me back to the basics rather than always strategizing to get people to church. I feel that organization and planning are necessary to help us focus on the most important things; however, growing our relationship with Christ and with others supersedes everything else. I say that because busyness, in and out of church work, can get in the way sometimes when it comes to my relationships.  When I’m in that busy mode I find that it becomes too easy to put on the mask of playing church. There is no doubt that the masks we wear to show perfection in the church does more harm than good when it comes to our relationships.  It’s my prayer daily that I can wear authenticity instead of a mask of perfection.

    During our Wednesday morning ladies group we discussed Chris’ message and read the Rachel Evans article.  Not only did the “millennials” in our group say that they agreed with the points made in the message and article, but they said they were spot-on.  What is interesting is that the other generations that were represented were also in agreement.  The most poignant comment of the day came from 24 year-old Amanda Willis. She said, “The difficulty that my generation experiences, is trying to filter through all of the information that we hear from other generations, like ‘we believe because that’s what we’re supposed to believe’.  We have to filter through global and digitalization. All we want is to get to the truth. We just want to hear the truth about Jesus and experience the presence of God. It’s that simple.”  Everyone in the room nodded in agreement.

    “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”  Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV)

    Since the church is not a building it’s impossible to ask, what is the church?  Because God has a plan for all of us, the question is who is the church?  The answer is in Colossians 3:12-14.  The church is God’s chosen people.  We must caution ourselves not to replace “chosen people” with “all people”, holding non-Christians to standards they can’t keep, but it is necessary to create spaces for them.  We are to live as Christ’s representative as a way of life, so perhaps we need to quit trying to do Christianity well.  God has put in all of us a core longing for Jesus, so why not slow down our lives and see Him in front of us.  It makes the Gospel a whole lot simpler.  

    A few weeks ago, Journey commissioned a group of individuals to begin a church plant in Columbus.  As I stood praying for them, my heart swelled with joy, thankfulness, love, and the pride of a mother; for you see, many of the group that God has called to this ministry was a part of the small group Bill and I led some years ago. God has been molding and shaping Tim and Brittany Barenscheer over the last few years to take on this dream of planting a church. It’s because of the emphasis on Christ-centered relationships and true authenticity that this original group, as well as others that have lived life with Tim and Britt, are now being sent out by Journey to spread the love of Jesus.  I am thankful that God allowed me the opportunity to learn from these amazing individuals.  They helped me “awaken” out of my status quo church slumber.  They challenged me to rethink my own spiritual walk, and to have the courage to think out of the box in how to “do church.”  I appreciate the fact that this millennial generation is very open to inner-generational relationships.  They are hungry for wisdom from those who have walked through life before them.  I pray that for those of us who are more seasoned in life, that we will pause to glean from what they are trying to communicate to us.  And above all else, I pray that every generation will seek the Lord God with all of their heart, mind, soul, and strength, and that they will love others the way Christ has loved us.

     

     Grace and Peace, Merri Anne

  • Week of 19 August 2013

    Have you ever experienced something, and then you tried to explain your experience to someone else but they just didn’t seem to be as excited as you wanted them to be about it? I’ve felt that way after attending concerts. It’s difficult to explain the amazing musical ability of both Elton John and Billy Joel, as they rocked OSU stadium at dueling pianos for 3 hours.  Poor Bill not only had to miss out on the concert he also had to endure my lengthy note by note description of every song and word sung. He appreciated my excitement, but because of his absence it wasn’t his experience.  It was impossible for him to get fully what I was trying desperately to explain. It was frustrating for both of us: he wanted to have the same experience with me and I wanted to have the same experience with him.

    I often feel like that when I’m trying to talk to an individual about the love of Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross for all of us, but they just don’t seem to get it. The thing is I haven’t always “gotten it” to the extent that I experience Him today.  It wasn’t until early in my marriage when Bill and I had a discussion about sin that he gently explained to me that I wasn’t going to hell in a hand-basket if I messed up.  I lived in fear that I was always at risk of losing my salvation because of screw-ups.  Wow! What a difference it makes in a person’s life when they accept the love of Jesus for what it is: The Ultimate Exchange.  When I had this “aha” moment at 24 years-old, I was far from a new believer.  I had been a Christian all of my life.  My perspective of Christianity was very narrow.  I knew I had to obey the commandments, serve God by doing tasks in the church, and be kind to others, but if I failed in any of those areas I would certainly be doomed.  I couldn’t fully appreciate what Bill was telling me until I accepted the truth of grace for myself.  It required opening up my mind and heart, and laying down the distorted belief that I had carried for so long.  I can’t express adequately the freedom that I walked in from that moment on as I finally understood what the sacrifice of Christ meant for me.

    Sunday’s message was outstanding, to say the least.  Good News! The Ultimate Exchange zeroed in on the fact that with Jesus, there is a serious benefit package that many of us know nothing about!  God offers us an even exchange—a divine exchange.

    ·         Jesus was punished so that we may be forgiven. 
    “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from who men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteem him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:3-5

    ·         Jesus was wounded physically that we can be healed physically.  This is a difficult area for us to believe because our belief system is based on our own experiences. We cannot create our doctrine and theology out of our experiences; nor can we base our identity on our experiences. God stretches us by asking us to step into what we don’t know already… its called faith.  Faith 101 believes something God says is true before it’s manifested. 
    “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living.  It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.” Hebrews 11:1 (The Message)

    ·         Jesus was made sin with our sinfulness so that we could be made righteous.  He gave us His righteousness.  He exchanged his love for the mess we make of our lives.  God asks us to walk in faith, but we can only walk in the revelation we accept.  It’s about perspective.  The Kingdom moves forward when we align our truths with His.  We must choose to believe first.

    ·         Jesus endured our poverty so that we might share in His abundance.  We have access to the storehouse of heaven if we are generous with what we have.  Put the Kingdom first and don’t hoard everything for ourselves.  This is not the “health and wealth” gospel which distorts the truth of scripture that God wants all of us to be wealthy beyond rich.  The truth is that the love of money is evil.  He provides for what we need as we trust Him daily.  For those of us who struggle sometimes to make ends meet, we live out of fear; therefore, stifling our generosity.  We need to have God’s perspective and put the Kingdom first, relying on Him to provide for our needs. 

     

    ·         Jesus was rejected by God so we could experience God’s acceptance.  When Jesus died on the cross it was the only time that He experienced a separation from God.  This was the Divine Exchange.  How often do we feel we have to work at gaining God’s acceptance?  Perhaps we strive so hard to make-up for the sinful things we’ve done in our lives, that we miss the point of Jesus’ sacrifice.  If we feel rejected by God it’s a lie of Satan.  Jesus paid the full price so that we can have a relationship with God—free and clear.

    So why aren’t we experiencing the joy, healing peace, acceptance, etc.?  Because we haven’t made the choice to walk in the truth of the Gospel and accept Jesus’ Ultimate Exchange.  Unlike the fact that Bill couldn’t possibly experience the Elton John and Billy Joel like I did , we all have the opportunity to choose to believe fully in this exchange that was made on the cross.  Won’t you step into that experience now?

    Chuck’s Additional Scripture References…

    Deuteronomy 28:1-8; Colossians 1:19-22; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 6:11; Romans 8:1; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 4:19; Matthew 27:45-46; Hebrews 10:14; Joshua 1:2

     

     Grace and Peace, Merri Anne

  • Week of 12 August 2013

    It’s amazing the number of conversations I’ve had over the last couple of weeks regarding parenting, and the correlation to the way God parents us.  It’s just interesting coming off of Chuck’s recent series Raising Kingdom Kids. The conversations I’ve had have been with individuals who simply have a difficult time wrapping their brains around the fact that God isn’t the punisher because of disobedience.  It’s as if the information that I’ve been taking notes on during the sermons has been extracted from my memory to share with others.  God clearly uses what we’ve been taught about Him to penetrate our hearts, and then impact others.

    There are so many people who are driven by fear that God is going to strike them with a lightning bolt, so to speak, that the number one goal that they have for themselves and for their children, is to obey all the rules no matter the cost.  Unfortunately, the love of God is missing from the equation. God does give us rules to follow because He loves us, and wants the best for our lives.  However, fearing the Lord is from a healthy respect for His authority.  It has nothing to do with lightning bolts.

    God caused a paradigm shift when He sent Jesus to earth to make a new covenant with His people.  He had to change the relational dynamic. Because of the free will He gave to us in the very beginning, He chose to allow us to do the right thing out of love and respect, rather than to punish when we disobey.  We still reap the consequences of our actions when we fail to make good decisions, but He treats us with unconditional love and grace in the process.  This is the parenting style God wants us to use with our children.  He wants us to parent out of relationship and love rather than invoking fear.

    Fear can be an all-consuming thing with children and parents.  Children may obey because they’re afraid of punishment, but because there is a lack of love in the discipline, they end up doing what they want when they are out of eyesight of their parents.  Parents may be fearful of losing control of their children so they feel they have to “lay down the hammer” to keep them in line.  It can be a vicious cycle. Just as we have to learn to trust the guidance of our Heavenly Father and respect His authority, our children must also learn to trust and respect their parents. Parents must allow kids the choice to make right and wrong decisions.  If they make the wrong one then they need to be consistent in letting them take the consequences.  In freedom there is power to choose.  Parents need to help their children learn to make good choices, but the relationship will be lost if the parent is too controlling, manipulates through intimidation, or creates fear through punishment.  In freedom there is no fear. 

    I John 4:18

    “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.” (NIV)

    Chuck told a story from Danny Silk’s book, Loving Your Kids On Purpose that I will do my best to share.  By the way, this book has been highly recommended for all parents.  Danny Silk wrote that he was having trouble with his 14 year-old daughter in keeping her room clean.  It had been a major battle—one that most of us parents can relate to.  He and his wife had tried several punishment tactics, but nothing seemed to work.  One day he gave her a choice of cleaning her room or paying him $25 an hour for cleaning it for her.  She thought he was kidding…he wasn’t.  He didn’t raise his voice to his daughter, and he gave her the freedom to choose.  He points out that it’s very important for parents to be consistent in following through with the consequences.  The kids may not have $25 to pay per hour, but they most likely have other collateral:  phones, gaming systems, IPods, etc.  Part of loving them is to teach them that there are repercussions for their actions. I believe this method worked quite well for them.

    In closing, we will have conflict but that doesn’t mean it has to be a warzone. We bring heaven to earth in our families by creating an atmosphere of heaven through peace, love, and joy.  The way we get our kids to do the right things is by connecting to their hearts and loving them…not condemning them. We need to live in a paradigm of relationship. They need our guidance, encouraging words, and a chance to know our hearts.  If we make a mistake we need to own it, because humility goes a long way in building relationships.  As parents, we have the opportunity to either breathe life and blessing into our children or curse them through our words and actions.  Everything hinges on our understanding of how God fathers us.

     

     Grace and Peace, Merri Anne

  • Week of 5 August 2013

     

    Have you spent much time watching the parenting skills of Andy Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show? I think he was an awesome dad—loving, but firm when he needed to be.  Opie always knew his dad loved him, even when he had to be corrected. What about Cliff and Clair Huxtable from The Cosby Show? They were firm and expected good behavior, but they guided their children with love, humor, and by example.

     

    I know that The Andy Griffith Show and The Cosby Show aren’t real life, but it seems that family portrayals on television represent the values of society. Today, the majority of television families communicate with each other through sarcasm, unkindness, and disrespect—both with parents and children. Unfortunately, a lot of homes can look like a war zone. The good news is we have the choice to establish values that will help us raise kingdom kids in a safety zone. We can create an atmosphere of heaven in our homes. Our homes can be a place to escape the temptations of this world.  Our homes can have a level of peace, joy, love, and righteousness that transcends the ugliness that sometimes exists in society.

     

    For many of us, this will require a paradigm shift in our thinking. What is the bottom-line goal we have for interaction with our children?  Perhaps our parenting style emulates past generations where the number one priority is to make sure they obey. We believe that conformity leads them to becoming good people. God’s number one goal in parenting us is not to conform us into obedience.  He just wants us to love Him. God gave commands in the Old Testament, but His people missed His whole point when said to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength. Jesus added that we are to also love Him with all of our soul, as well as love others. 

     

    There are struggles in our homes because we are focused on the wrong bottom-line. If we put relationships and love first, then everything else will fall in line. The paradigm shift requires guidance in love, not punishment out of fear.  God created us with free will which shows that He is not afraid of our choices.  Often we parent out of fear that our children will make poor choices, and the consequences that will follow. The fact is they will make poor choices.  But, haven’t we all?  God doesn’t worry about our choices because He has a plan for our lives; therefore, we have to trust that He has a plan for the lives of our children. God dealt differently with people once Jesus came to make a new covenant and to restore relationships. Punishment and anger are not the ways that God deals with us.  We must change from an Old Testament perspective to a New Testament perspective which is guidance in love, not punishment out of fear.  Just like our relationship with God, our kids need to be motivated out of love. That’s what amazing grace is all about. We don’t want our children to be afraid of us.  Parents should reduce fear, not increase it.  Now, this does not mean we let our kids do whatever they want.  That is an unhealthy kind of love. God has rules because He knows the best for us. We are to guide them by correcting behavior with love, and creating appropriate consequences when necessary. False peace through laying down the hammer doesn’t necessarily accomplish what we hope. Our kids will obey in front of us, but will rebel when they are out of our presence.

     

    If we value the hearts of our children, they will want to honor our heart.  The Holy Spirit came after Jesus to live within us because of the power of choice. Inspiring our children to love God and others will lead to Jesus-like character.

     

    Chuck’s Scripture References…

     

    Isaiah 9: Jeremiah 31:31-34; I John 14:15

     

    Grace and Peace, Merri Anne

  • Week of 27 July 2013

     

    Because of not being in the service last Sunday, I listened to the Podcast of Chuck’s sermon; the second installment of Raising Kingdom Children. I have been a parent for 25 years, and I still had several “aha” moments, as I quickly wrote down four pages of notes. First, I appreciated the fact Chuck states upfront that parenting is hard, because it is!  I marvel at single parents who have to do it all, because I have been blessed with an amazing husband, who I feel does more than his part in raising our children. However, we still have hard days. I want to echo Chuck’s encouragement to all of those who are doing it on their own; God has incredible blessings for you as you seek Him in all that you do. Chuck also reinforced the role of grandparents in the lives of their grandchildren. They fill in gaps that parents are unable to fill. Many grandparents take an active role in raising the children of their own children. They have a unique and important place in child-rearing because of their wisdom and love.

    Chuck gave so many outstanding points in his message that I’m not going to review notes from the first week of the series. You can find everything either on the Podcast from July 21 or read my Journey Connect blog on the Journey website: www.gotojourney.com.

    To support the idea of the “5 C’s” from last week’s message, Chuck gave the following suggestions for us to think about:

    • Quantity doesn’t necessarily mean quality. It’s so important for us to make the minutes count with our children.
    • Words create worlds for your kids.  Our words affect what happens in their lives. We need to be careful of the words we speak. Our words can bring life or death, blessing or curse. We must control our tongues (James 3:1-12). Jesus called things into being with His words. Just as Jesus’ words to Peter by calling him “a rock” spoke identity into him, our words speak into the identities of our children. (Proverbs 12:18). Wise parents know they are shaping their kids with their words.  What we say makes a difference for the positive and the negative. Kids will live up to what we say. By the same token, if we’re speaking words of life then our actions have to be backed up by our behavior.
    • Be positive in our correction of our children. Wouldn’t it be great if we move from always correcting to turning the situation into a positive teaching moment?
    • CATCH YOUR KIDS DOING SOMETHING GREAT.  Kids need a picture of what they are, and our expectations should support that they are capable of things that far surpass anything they can think of themselves. We need to celebrate who they are as God’s creation.
    • Our normal should be to breathe life into them. We need to find something every day to tell them that will lift them up.  They can tell the difference between flattery and genuineness, so we need to be honest in our statements. Also, don’t expect anything back from them in the moment. The effects of our words will be revealed in time.
    • Go beyond performance.  This is huge. It is something that every parent struggles with in one form or another.  Just as God’s love for us is not based on our performance the same message needs to be conveyed to our children. If we only praise and express our pleasure when they do something well, then when they are unsuccessful they can feel that they don’t measure up to our expectations.  That doesn’t mean that we overlook when they need to work harder, or settle for less than their capabilities.  If we show unconditional love all the time, then when discipline is necessary they will view it as loving. After all, we don’t want to create performance addicts that thrive on empty praise. We need to go beyond performance to get to the heart.  Performance will follow if parents accept even in imperfection.
    • They need to know that they can’t mess it up when they love him. That’s all He wants.
    • We need to remove the plank out of our own eye before asking them to remove it from their’s. We have to be honest in our own mistakes, because they need to see that we aren’t perfect.
    • Our kids are watching.  They are watching how we treat others, how we handle money, how much time we spend away from home and the family, how much alcohol we drink, how we resolve conflict, how we deal with adversity, and how we trust God through all of it. They observe the real deal.
    • We need to have regular conversations with them. We need to talk about God with them. They need to know that God cares about their lives, and He has a plan for them. He wants to be a part of everything they do.  It’s okay to impose the truth and our faith on them.  It’s also important to talk to God about our own failures in front of the kids. They need to see that we can humble ourselves before God, so that they will know how to do the same.
    • They need our affection. If we don’t show them affection then they will seek it elsewhere, sometimes in inappropriate ways. Typically, moms are more affectionate than dads. There is a stigma with men that it isn’t manly to show affection. Here is the truth: if dads don’t hug their boys, the boys will not learn how to express themselves emotionally. They will have an unhealthy view of affection. If dads don’t hug their girls, then they will seek emotional touch and affection from other places.  Dads, if your son doesn’t hug or say “I love you”, chances are they are reflecting you. We must begin now rather than wait until our kids are older.  Men can be men and still be affectionate. Children also need to see their parents be affectionate with one another. It models that affection is normal.
    • Try four meaningful touches a day with your children and spouse (more would be great). It may sound silly to count, but we have to be intentional in how we show our children and spouses we love them.  Kids need hugs at home.  We need to love our loved ones more than anything else, with the exception of God.

    I saw something recently on 60 Minutes about the current “teenage hugger phenomenon”. They showed kids from all over the country greeting their peers with hugs and meaningful embraces.  Now, many of these kids are not getting that at home so they are seeking it elsewhere.  There was a correlation between the needed affection and promiscuous sex amongst teenagers. That should be a wake-up call to all of us parents.

    Chuck’s next message will be going into depth with specific struggles that occur in parenting.  It’s important to remember that Chuck is not speaking from a position of having it all figured out.  He has said many times that he is learning with the rest of us.  I guess that’s why the phrase it takes a village to raise children is so spot-on.  We need God’s direction and support from others to walk through this life of parenting.  Additionally, the biblical principles he’s sharing transcend to all relationships.

    Chuck’s Scripture References…

    Ezekiel 37 (Dry Bones); I John 3:18

    Grace and Peace,

    Merri Anne

  • Week of 21 July 2013

     

    As I was praying on a quiet morning early last winter, I was seeking God’s wisdom regarding sending our daughter, Halle to Brazil in July. I knew it would require a lot of money, and frankly, I was a little nervous with the thought of her going out of the country without Bill or me going, too. Around the same time we were contemplating this decision the opportunity was presented for us as a family to go on a mission trip to Navajo Nation in New Mexico. It was scheduled for the same time in July as the Brazil trip. Bill and I prayed and talked about the two options, ultimately deciding that God was providing a way for us to grow as a family through serving others. Once we shared the idea with all of our children and they were excited about it, the work to get there began. Through months of prayer, fundraising through work projects, a car wash, an auction, and the generosity of family and friends, God provided the way for us to fund the trip—close to $5,000! It was an adventure with God that we never anticipated, and I can honestly say that every expectation was met and beyond.

    Chuck’s sermon on Sunday definitely resonated with me about the importance of family memories.  He began a series called Raising Kingdom Children. The idea of family comes from God. He promises that when we allow Him to be the head of our families, He will walk us through the good and difficult times.

    In preparation for the upcoming weeks, Chuck challenged us to consider the 5 C’s:

    1.)    Confident…We want our kids to be confident in their value and abilities.  They must know that He loves them just the way they are—they are His favorite!

    2.)    Character…We want our kids to love and follow God.

    3.)    Conviction…We want our kids to have beliefs that drive them to the Father.

    4.)    Compassion…We want our kids to have a heart that breaks over the things that break God’s heart.

    5.)    Competent…We want our kids to change the world to yearn for God’s presence.

    There are no guarantees that your child will follow the ways of God because He’s given everyone free will.  When you follow God’s lead and love is a part of the home, love will transcend the tough things. Parenting requires that we plant seeds in our children through love and direction, but it’s God who grows them up.

    In addition, Chuck pointed out two of the most important aspects of parenting:

    BELIEF…  We need to realize our value as a parent in the lives of our children. Parents ARE significant.  Somehow, many of us have a false belief that our voice is of lesser value than the other influences our children encounter. God created children with a longing for their parents to be their heroes. They long for direction and boundaries, but rules without relationship lead to rebellion. No one is called to be a greater influence than parents.

    PRESENCE…  Our kids need our presence. Our society dictates that life revolves around stuff, and we fall for the trap. The more stuff that we have the more we become overworked to pay for it, taking us out of the home.  Our children need quality and quantity time with us.  Difficulties arise when parents are not accessible.  The thing is some parents are in the same room but are far from being present. Our kids need us to be actively present.

    Chuck did honor those single parents who have to do it all.  To have to work outside of the home, do household chores, homework with the kids, grocery shopping, etc., it’s difficult to find time to turn around. Don’t lose heart! God is working in the midst. He understands the difficulties that arise in a single parent household, and He pours His favor on those who seek Him.  God will fill in the gaps when your physical presence isn’t possible. It’s a matter of trusting Him to do it.

    Most of us have memories of our childhood that include our parents…albeit some are better memories than others. Our kids need to develop memories that include quality time with their parents.  I pray that our trip to Navajo Nation will conjure up awesome memories that our children will carry throughout their lives. That was a huge reason Bill and I decided it was necessary to do the family trip. Halle would have had tremendous memories going to Brazil, but for this season in the life of our family, it was important for us to do a trip together. As a matter of fact when I was praying about it all those months ago, I clearly had the impression that God was saying it would be great for Halle to go to Brazil, but it wasn’t just about Halle. It was then I saw a picture of our 14 year-old son, Gregory. Gregory needed memories, too. My heart burst with joy when Phillip and Leslie were able to clear their schedules to go, as well.  I love it when our desires line up with God’s desires for us.

    What might you need to sacrifice so your children aren’t sacrificed? I know that for many of us it can be hard to make ends meet, to just put a roof over our household and keep food on the table. Maybe it’s watching less TV and playing a game with the kids.  Moms, perhaps it requires putting off doing the dishes so you can sit down and cuddle with your little girl who is begging you to watch Enchanted for the 100th time. Dads, Sports Center can probably wait for you to take your son outside to throw the football. Parents of teenagers, spending time with them now is more important than ever! Be creative. Ask them what they would like to do. It may not be what you want to do, but it will mean a lot to them. Regardless of our financial situations and time restraints, something can be sacrificed to spend meaningful time with our children.

    Finally, Chuck recommended a book for everyone to read called Loving Your Kids on Purpose by Danny Silk.  This book has greatly influenced Chuck and Tara in raising their four beautiful daughters, and he highly suggests that we all take the time to read it, too.

    Chuck’s Scripture References…

    Psalm 127:3-5

    Journey Events…

    BACKPACK GIVEAWAY!!!

    • School Supplies Collection Days – Sundays, July 28 and August 4
    • We need volunteers to pack backpacks on Wednesday, August 7, 6:00-8:00 pm
      at Vineyard Church
    • Backpack Giveaway at Journey on Saturday morning, August 10 (need volunteers)

    Journey Men’s Golf Outing on Sunday afternoon, August 18 at Apple Valley Golf Course.  First tee time is 1:36 PM.  For maximum fun, it will be a “best ball” scramble format.  You can sign-up in the café, or call Gary Schworm at 614.557.6425.

    Men’s Coffee and Discussion Group: On Sunday, August 4 at 9:00 am, Roger Sidwell of Hendersonville, Tennessee (a friend of Gary Schworm) will be sharing about his experiences building many homes for the underprivileged of Jamaica.  Roger and his wife Betty, also run a “soup kitchen” to feed the poorest of the poor in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.  Gary is planning to join him this coming February for a week to build a home (think lawn shed by American standards) for a needy person; perhaps others might be interested in joining us for the week

    Grace and Peace,

    Merri Anne

  • 1 July 2013

     

    Over the last few weeks the focus has been about how we do Community well in the Body of Christ. Tim, Brittany, Chris, and Chuck have given us important tools to discover our identity in Christ: How we view and love ourselves directly impacts how we love others.

     

     In Chuck’s teaching on Sunday, he unpacked a portion of Elijah’s story in I Kings 18-19.  Please take some time to read this passage. It brings perspective to the fact that Satan attacks our identity through our minds. His goal is to replace truths that God gives us about ourselves, as well as our circumstances, with lies to take us out of God’s presence. When we make the agreement to believe those lies we are lead into mental, emotional, and spiritual turmoil. We have to be careful not to give Satan too much credit here! Yes, he will attack our minds and try to make us absolutely miserable, but God is victorious!!! The battle is already won for Christ Followers. We have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit to reside in us—His presence with us all of the time!  The only way for us to succumb to the lies of Satan is to make agreements in our minds. How does he do this?

     

     

    •  He wants to get us alone and away from Community. It is in this place that we can get into the “woe is me” mentality. We’re convinced no one cares. Our perspective gets distorted.  All of a sudden we take offense over things that were never intended to hurt us, or we become defensive in order to put up a wall of protection. He loves nothing better than to drive wedges in the Community of Christ. 
    •  He prowls around just waiting for the opportunity to pounce when we’re tired, sick, hungry, and all-around feeling weak. It is in this place where we   are most vulnerable to his attacks.
    •   He takes us out of the presence of God through our minds.

     

     

    Good Community reminds us of who we are. We need each other!!!  One way that Journey tries to keep our community together is by this little weekly email…Journey Connect. Communication is absolutely necessary to live life together. We are continually having the conversation about how to keep everyone in the loop of Journey life. Sometimes we hit the mark, sometimes we don’t, but what is important is that we never cease on our efforts to make it happen. If you unaware, we do have a Journey Church Facebook page. We try to post upcoming events, and so forth. Please feel free to leave encouraging words to others on this page. This is a great format to encourage the Body of Christ!  Also, Chris is in the process of launching a new look for the Journey website. It is his intention to make it easy to navigate the important information.

     

    In closing, I would like to encourage you to get alone with God and ask Him to reveal to you the areas within you that keep you from experiencing Community with others. Do you know someone that feels on the outside of things? If so, just love them into community. Love them through grace. Love them the way Christ loves you.

     

    Chuck’s Scripture References…

     

     

    I John 3:8; Isaiah 61; II Corinthians 10:4-5; Romans 12:12; I Kings 18-19:1-18

     

    Journey Events…

     

    Men’s Coffee and Discussion – Sundays at 9:00 am before the morning service

     

    Sunday, July 21st – Family Picnic and Fun Day! Following the 10:00 am service

                Please bring a dish to share…bring your lawn chairs…bring CORN HOLE SETS FOR A TOURNAMENT!!!

     

    Backpack Give-Away!!!!!!!

              Here’s a note from Marc Lyons…the Knox County Coordinator and Journey Representative:

             

    “We have seven distribution sites this year........Awesome!!!!

     

    Let's plan on collecting school supplies from our Journey Church family on July 21, July 28 & August 4.

     

    We'll also need volunteers to help like last year.  This year, since there are so many distribution sites, as the overall coordinator I'll need to be floating to these other sites during the giveaway times.  Kelly and Abby will be at Journey to lead the effort, but I won't be able to be there for set up or distribution since I'll be working with some of the new distribution sites to help them get going that morning.  This will mean we'll need a strong contingent of volunteers from Journey to help set up, hand out the back packs and then tear down and put away.  We'll also want some volunteers to help pack the backpacks on Wednesday, August 7 from 6-8 pm.”

     

    As you can see from Marc’s note we are in need of volunteers for this important local community event! Please contact me by email or on the Journey line 740.599.9000, if you are interested in volunteering. There will also be a table set up in the café`. THANKS!!

     

    Please pray for our Journey team that went to Brazil this week!

     

    Also, please pray for my family as we join a group from Vineyard Church of Knox County, to work alongside Navajo Ministries in Farmington, NM. We leave early, early tomorrow morning. We will be spending the majority of our time with the beautiful Navajo people of a small church in Cudeii on the Navajo Reservation. We are building a playground, running VBS for the children of the community, and doing other work projects at the church. You can check out the ministry of this cool organization at www.navajoministries.org. We are excited for what God is going to do in us and through us during this trip!

     

    Grace and peace,

    Merri Anne


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