Adult Equipping

Resources for Your Spiritual Growth

Rest as Faithful Surrender

Written by Stephen Hess, Preaching and Discipleship Specialist

In the first two weeks of quarantine, I took less than 2,000 steps each day and was up until 2 a.m. each night. Now, there’s an obvious physical connection there. Since then, I’ve walked every day, and I’m falling asleep sooner. But I’m only slightly less restless than I was two months ago. I don’t know how you cope with fear and anxiety, but I find that I oscillate between checking out and making checklists. I either escape through the hole that is YouTube (watching old WWE or Gordon Ramsey clips) or create detailed lists for projects around the house or research. Just a couple days into quarantine, I had inventoried all the food we have in the house. These are the “little” ways I try to find comfort and grasp at control when I lose sight of God’s presence. This is what restlessness looks like on the surface.

   
   
   

Whether I’m moving toward comfort or control, the thinking underneath them is simultaneously, “I am not enough,” and “I want to be more than enough.” I move toward comfort when I think I’m not competent or capable enough to navigate our financial future or produce meaningful work. I move toward control when I think if I just account for all the right variables, get the right plan in place, and work long enough, I can pretend that life is normal right now. But this kind of thinking prevents me from experiencing rest because this type of thinking is all about me.

In her book, The Sense of the Call: A Sabbath Way of Life for Those Who Serve God, the Church, and the World, Marva Dawn writes, “Sabbath ceasing has to begin with an honest assessment of how much we keep depending upon ourselves instead of God—so that we can give up and let everything go for a day.” For those of you who find yourselves unable to “let everything go” for a day because of the unceasing demands of our employers or our children, there is still an invitation to rest from wrapping your worth up in your performance and constantly comparing yourself to others.

When we realize just how much we depend on ourselves, rest becomes an act of faithful surrender—just like any other spiritual discipline. In order for me to truly rest and not just numb or distract my mind and emotions with entertainment, I need to surrender the pride in my heart that wants to be “more than enough.” And as I rest, I am declaring that though “I am not enough,” I am not alone. I am declaring that though I do not see Him, and though my pile of work is still there, He is at work. This week, I would invite you to meditate on Psalm 121 as a way to remind myself of the Lord’s steadfast love and presence: 

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in 
from this time forth and forevermore. 
 

Additional resources:

   
   

RightNow Media

We want to highlight one of the free resources available to you as someone who attends The Journey – RightNow Media! If you are not familiar with RightNow Media, it is an incredible resource (that is FREE to you!) with 20,000+ Bible studies, resources, and more. 

   
   

That's a lot of resources, so we've created a custom library called The Journey in RightNow Media. The videos and resources you will find in this library were curated by leaders from across The Journey to help provide a starting point for you to dive in to this great resource. All you need to access the new Journey library, along with all the other great resources on this platform, is a RightNow Media account. Don’t have one? No worries! You can create your free account.  

Access library

   
   
   

The SOlid Rock

Written by Emilie Nevins-Carter, Director of Operations at The Journey West County

For the past few weeks, I’ve found myself reflecting quite a bit on the concept of vulnerability and need.  Brene Brown says that vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness. 

I feel like I’ve seen this play out over the past few weeks as I’ve responded to individuals and families seeking out one of our most basic needs….food. I’ve been struck by how vulnerable it is for someone to admit they need help. It has felt like I’m entering into this exposed, delicate space as a car pulls up to our church; the driver rolls down their window, sometimes their voice quivering, as they share their needs with us. Honestly, it’s been very humbling for me.

 

   
   
   

So for the last few weeks, I’ve been asking myself how often I admit my need to others...frankly it’s not near as often as it could be. But as I began pondering that question, I got pretty hung up….what do I need most right now? While there is much uncertainty for our family amidst this global pandemic, our physical needs are being met. Most of the time I feel "fine"...and am often reminding myself that things could always be worse. So I started asking that God would reveal what I need most in this season. And then, while working one day, I happened upon this quote by David Zahl: 

"Listen carefully and you’ll hear the word ‘enough’ everywhere, especially when it comes to the anxiety, loneliness, exhaustion, and division that plague our society to tragic proportions. You’ll hear people scrambling to be successful enough, happy enough, thin enough, wealthy enough, influential enough, desired enough, charitable enough, good enough. We believe instinctively that, were we to reach some benchmark in our minds, then value, vindication, and love would be ours–that if we get enough, we would be enough.

But here’s the wrinkle, no matter how close we get or how much we achieve, we never quite arrive at enough.  Our lives attest that the threshold does not exist, at least not where fallible and finite human beings are concerned. Instead, people are suffering and dying under the torture of the fantasy self they’re failing to become!!!!" (exclamation points added for emphasis)

This quote stopped me in my tracks. What is it that I need most right now? I need to believe that Jesus is enough.

When the shelter in place orders were made and the reality started to sink in that we were going to be holed up for an undetermined amount of time, my brain quickly went to work. My husband and I sat down and made a list, because that’s what we do. Well, technically I make lists and he makes spreadsheets…we were made for each other. The list included things like setting up a well-thought-out daily schedule, organizing our storage areas, coming up with weekly meal plans, starting a new exercise regime, putting in a new patio area. I could go on...but I’ll stop for your sake. 

You see, I had slipped back into this false belief that if I could accomplish those goals, I’d really be set. I’d reach this place of inner contentment where I blissfully smiled at my husband and children 24/7, and I was always caught up on work...somehow accomplishing even more than I had set out to accomplish each day. But, let’s face it, after a week of being home with an infant, toddler, and teenager, I tossed the idea of a perfect schedule out the window. And the house that I had hoped would be cleaner and more organized because we are living in it ALL. THE. TIME, looks...well, lived in. But before I accepted defeat, my goals shifted, and along came the thought of a swing set in the backyard and potty-training our two year old. I don’t know about you, but for me, there is always some new benchmark. An illusion that, if I were to hit it, I’ll find peace and contentment....and ultimately that I will be worthy of love...that I’ll be enough.  

What I need most right now, is to believe deep in my soul, that Jesus is enough. 

“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest…” – Hebrews 6:19-20

I don’t need the perfect schedule, every project to be completed, or a prediction of the future for me to have ultimate satisfaction, because my satisfaction, my hope – it comes from Jesus and His finished work on the cross.  But I have to remind myself of that truth often. I have sung the words more times than I can count. Yet it is so tempting to put my hope and trust in earthly, temporary things.  

“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus' Name”

So what is it that you need most right now? If you happen to be like me and don’t have a crystal clear answer, ask God to reveal it to you. We are reminded in 1 John that we can have confidence because, “if we ask anything according to His will, he hears us.” – 1 John 5:14

Once you know what you most need in this season, don’t be afraid to share that need with others. You may not have the exact same needs as those showing up at our mobile food pantry. Many of us may actually have the option not to admit our need and seek help, but does that really mean we are self-sufficient? Aren’t we all here because we are flawed, imperfect, and desperately need Jesus? As Paul Tripp says, “Our weakness will not get in the way of what the Lord wants to do in us. Our delusions of strength will!” 

Back to Brene Brown: “Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness;" but she continues, "it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.”

When you are vulnerable and share your need with God and the community He’s placed you in, God may very well use it to bring about flourishing in ways you hadn’t even imagined.  

“On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand”

Additional Resources

The Voice of God Regarding Your Calling

Written by Jeff Fox, Board elder from The Journey South County

God wants to awaken you to your unused calling! He desires to see His people, our Journey family, walk fully in the purposes He desires for us and His Kingdom. 

A valuable opportunity we had during our social distancing time was The Journey’s 12 hours of prayer together just this past month. It was an opportunity for God’s people to come, to pray with one another over the course of a day, and to hear what was on the heart of God’s people – and more importantly – what was on God’s heart. Themes I heard continually throughout the day were prayers for healing and protection for our church and community; prayers against fear and anxiety in a time of such uncertainty; prayer for the virus to end; prayer for the economic situations of our people and for employment and safety, and then prayer for the Lord to use this time to bring about revived hearts and lives in Christ.

 

One theme that came out during our time specifically was that there were, within the church, dormant callings that the Lord wanted to free or to reignite so that His people, His church, would walk fully in the purposes that the Lord has for them.

With that, we’ll address calling here; with an encouragement near the end for working toward freeing dormant callings in our lives. Much of the material here, is from the book, The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of your Life by Os Guinness.

The Caller Calls
Mark 1:16-20 

"Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed Him."

In both instances here, Jesus calls first Simon and Andrew, then James and John; and notice the reactions of the disciples. They immediately drop what they were doing, drop their initial vocations of fishing and, in the latter case, leave their father in the boat, and both sets of men follow Jesus.

The caller, Jesus, makes an effective, irresistible call to follow him. There isn’t much interaction that we see here; Jesus invites them to follow Him; and there is direct obedience to Jesus. There isn’t any discussion that we see; the men drop everything and walk off into life with Christ – they walk off into the uncertainty of circumstances, the unknown, all the while trusting in the goodness of God through Christ. Jesus, as caller, makes a call that speaks directly to these men’s hearts and elicits a reaction of full-hearted devotion in the moment that transforms their lives forever. 

Jesus is trustworthy; Jesus is worthy of our devotion, our commitment, our obedience. We cannot have a calling apart from a caller. Jesus calls, and we respond to His call by following Him in obedience wherever He leads. 

2 Timothy 1:9, “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”

Vocation as Calling

There then is often much confusion around calling, vocation, and how our calling connects with our gifts (promised in Scripture that we each have).

Oftentimes, we expand calling to “ministry” and think the only way for a calling to be effective is if we are in full-time ministry of some type, where calling equates to vocation and then expands further to ministry. 

In Scripture, it is clear the vast majority of us should work “in the world” to support our families and ourselves and be generous with our time, treasure, and talents to God’s glory.

The vast majority of us will not be in full-time vocational ministry but are still called to serve the Lord with everything in us, with gladness, and to work toward seeing His kingdom manifested in our world wherever we find ourselves working.

Martin Luther King Jr. said this about vocation which is helpful:

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.'” 

In our work world, we should posture our hearts to do all we do (like the street sweeper) to the glory of God; to be salt and light there; to do whatever we do to the best of our abilities; to sow the greatness and goodness and glory of God the Father.

It is also very possible that our lives can then also expand – to work vocationally but then have a Kingdom passion, or vision, or calling, that fuels our lives outside of our vocation that we are called to reach outside ourselves in some way to work and serve the purposes of God in our communities, church, and city.

The vision of The Journey is to see, “our city awakened to and transformed by the love of Jesus."

The city of St. Louis will see and experience the love of Jesus toward transformation when the people of God, in the almost endless ways that the Holy Spirit calls and purposes His people, embrace the invitation to be Jesus’ hands, feet, and heart in and for our city; the people God has given us to see our city awakened to the love of Jesus and transformed into the community and the city that reflects Christ, His love, His care, His justice, His equity.

Reclaiming Calling

God’s plan is to use His Church and His people in His work, toward His purposes, and to show who He is to the world. As such, Paul said this in Romans 11:9: “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”

To those who understand their calling, have a grasp of their gifts and abilities, and are pursuing their calling in their community and in the world, we would pray for the grace of the Lord to provide continued clarity, energy, wisdom, and patient endurance to see the work through helping to accomplish the transformation of our city by the love of Jesus.

To those of us who have never spent time contemplating the invitation to follow Christ into this invitation to His purposes – consider deep meditation on the Scriptures as to His call on your life; read through and pray about the gifts and abilities He has given you (God has given us all gifts) that would support what God is calling us to; and then find a trusted friend, a counselor, or a pastor and discuss how this may look as we step out – and then to take our first tangible action steps toward living out the calling God has given us in our community.

To those whose calling was once vibrant and alive and is now dulled, dampened, and/or dormant – while God will certainly accomplish His work and will in and through His church and His people, He invites those who have been on the sideline to come off the sidelines and come back to the once clear, enlivened calling and purpose we once knew. 

The Lord is the Lord of healing; of grace; of second, third, fourth, infinite chances. It is time to acknowledge the disappointments of the past, to engage with our broken, hurt hearts, the pain of being used improperly by leaders we gave our trust to and our struggle to believe and to trust others and even God. The time has come to allow the work of the Spirit to heal our broken hearts and salve our wounded spirits and to once again engage in the calling and purpose that the Lord has invited us to follow Him into.

If we are indeed called to see our city awakened to and transformed by the love of Jesus, it will take our whole church community to see this happen, to participate in the purpose and work the Lord has for us all. The time to begin is now!

Won’t we all step up and step into the purposes and calling Jesus has for us? He is inviting us to follow Him.  

Some Further Resources

The Voice of God to my Heart: What a friend we have in Jesus!

Written by Corrinne Watson, Administrator at Metro East and Wedding Director

This is a question that screams to me in the dark. It’s the question I hear in the doubts of my heart when I’m lonely and feel like I have no one to go to.

Does Jesus really care about me?

During the time of COVID-19, I’ve been struck by Jesus and the way He was a friend to people. 

There is a scene in The Chosen TV series where Jesus and the disciples were heading into the next town; it is a visual representation found from what you read in Matthew 8:1-4.

   
   
   

A man came up out of nowhere and it was quickly realized that this man had leprosy. The disciples were quick to jump to conclusions to protect their friends (the other disciples, Mary, and Jesus) and themselves from this man. In reality, the leprous man took a big risk being out and about; but the risk had a huge reward.

I can’t help but see this scene and think about the intimacy Jesus had with this man. In the scene, the man walks up and falls to his knees. He pleads with Jesus by saying, “Please. Please. Don’t turn away from me.” Jesus responds with, “I won’t.” The leper cries out, “If you are willing you can make me clean. Only if you want to.” He doesn’t make eye contact or look up from where he is; he barely gets out the words between his tears. He continues, “I know you can heal me, if you’re willing.” Jesus walks over and the man looks up. Jesus gets down to his level and says, “I am willing” and heals him. (See the full scene here.) I remember the first time I watched the scene how powerful it was. I was in tears thinking about this man living alone with no physical touch. The outside world feared even getting close to him for fear of getting leprosy and then Jesus does the unthinkable. 

When I think about the way Jesus loves me I think about John 15:13-15 which says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (ESV)

The Gospel Transformation Bible explains these verses by saying, “The radical grace of the gospel transforms servanthood into friendship. Only grace can free us to obey Jesus out of friendship and worship, and no longer out of fear or self-interest.” Jesus calls us friends. What a joyful reality! 

Jesus is full of grace, ready to heal and meet us in our need. But he will not force himself on us, giving us what we need without waiting for us to ask. We have to make a move, like the leprous man, owning our need for him.

If you want Jesus’ friendship, are you seeking him? Are you diligently searching for his grace and help?

The first step to seek him is to say to him: “Don’t turn away from me. Help me know you are near.” Or as David in the Psalms prays, “O LORD, I call to you; my Rock, do not be deaf to my cry….” (Psalm 28:1). Do you need help calling out to him? Then ask someone else to pray with you, join a prayer Connect Group. Are you hesitant to seek Jesus out of shame or fear? Then take another look at Jesus as he really is, by reading about him. John 13:1-20 shows us how He truly loves us by washing the disciples feet. One thing that strikes me from the passage is His willingness to wash even the feet of the one who will betray him. I often choose a path like the betrayer.

In Luke 8:43-49, you see Jesus have compassion and heal a woman suffering, for many years, from blood loss. The woman desperately needed Jesus to heal her. He couldn’t see who touched him but knew power had gone out of Him. When Jesus heals, he shows God’s heart. God cares for us when we are hurting, and he chose to intervene on our behalf by sending us His perfect son. Watching him (The Chosen) and listening to songs about him, "What a friend we Have in Jesus" – feel your need for him, and reach out for help.

Jesus really loves me and calls me friend!

Additional Resources

Song “Deliverer” by Audrey Assad

Ask for prayer at prayforme@thejourney.org 

Join a prayer group

Ask for care or counseling

The Chosen TV show. This is the show I referenced above. "The Chosen is the first-ever-multi-season TV show about the life of Jesus. Created outside of the Hollywood system, The Chosen allows us to see Him through the eyes of those who knew him. No matter where you are at in your journey with Jesus Christ, this TV show is for you" (from the website). I recommend it for everyone, with parental discretion because some scenes (particularly in episode 1) may be too heavy/scary for younger kids. The best way to see the show is for free via The Chosen app (Android, IOS), but DVDs are also available for purchase.


 

The Voice of God for Those Who Have Never Heard It 

Written by Timothy Harakal, Director of Mobilization
Read Time • 5 minutes

God is drawing people to Himself in the least likely places, but can they recognize His voice? Learn who He is drawing, how He is doing so, and the surprisingly simple role He is inviting you to play.

“For 'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” – Romans 10:13-14

“In my dreams, a man comes to visit me - a man in white clothes so bright I can hardly see him. He speaks things to me that I know are true. Can you tell me who he is? Have you heard his voice?”

I have lost count of how many times I have heard this same strange, specific story - in articles and books, in email updates from friends sharing Christ in places most of us have never heard of (or would never desire to visit), and from the mouths of friends whose friends are the ones having these very dreams, in all their similar variations.

But what do people having dreams of a man in white have to do with you and with me, with coronavirus, with us all going slowly crazy on our couches as we pine for God’s voice to speak to our very real fears, anxieties, and stresses during this unprecedented time? Quite a bit, considering many of these dreams are answers to prayers from, quite literally, a world away.

This global pandemic reminds us that, indeed, we live in a global world. Ours is a world where goods, ideas, viruses, and even the gospel travel not just throughout one neighborhood to the next, but often from neighbors to not-so-nearby nations. Most of these “dream stories” I hear occur in countries like Indonesia, Turkey, Iran, Bahrain, Egypt. The common denominator of these nations? The majority of their populations adhere to Islam. 

This week, many of the nearly 2,000,000,000 Muslims in the world will begin Ramadan - a month-long period of fasting from sunrise to sunset for the purpose of drawing closer to their God, amongst other motivations. This includes the tens of thousands of Muslims who are our neighbors, coworkers, and fellow Cardinals/Blues fans. Muslims in Bosnia and Saudi Arabia are no more far from God than our unbelieving neighbors in Belleville and South County; however, many of them have never heard the voice of the One True God - revealed in the work and person of Jesus Christ - since they simply do not have access to this message through Bibles and believers. 

I have met men and women from countries ending in “-stan” who, once they heard the gospel, said, “I know this is the truth, and I want to follow King Jesus. But why do none of my people know him?” They come from neighborhoods where their families are too often born, live, and die without ever hearing or even meeting someone who has heard the voice of Jesus Christ - the very Word of God.

I share all of this to say that during this global pandemic, we truly can change the world. Many of the stories of dreams of a man in white occur for Muslims seeking to know God during Ramadan. And I know that I and many, many others all over the globe have been praying for Muslims during Ramadan to have dreams and visions of Jesus - and believers in their lives to help them understand them and enjoy His grace freely offered unto them! 

Just as this Coronavirus is unprecedented and spreading like wildfire, God is inviting us to be part of another wave of unprecedented wildfire - the Spirit-fueled fiery spread of His glorious gospel amongst Muslims. More Muslims have turned to follow Jesus in the past 15 years than in the previous 1400 years combined! 

Andrew Murray once said, “The man who mobilizes the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution to world evangelization in history,” so will you join me in changing the world through prayer by accepting a challenge to pray for Muslims - in our neighborhoods and the nations - for less than 5 of each day’s 1,440 minutes for the next month? Here is a resource that will send you brief, engaging daily prayer videos from former Muslims who now follow Jesus and want to help you understand how to pray for Muslims. Scroll down to the bottom and either put in your email OR text their phone number to sign up. I can’t wait until you and I are in Heaven enjoying God together forever, and only He knows how many former Muslim brothers and sisters in Christ we will worship with for whom God heard our prayers!

There are many other ways to engage our neighbors and the nations as well. Whether this has simply stirred your heart a bit, or you want to get far more involved, our Mobilization Team would love to hear from you (international@thejourney.org). 

For Further Involvement with the Mobilization Team

  • Are you interested in joining a 10-week-long group focused on practically and actively engaging our neighborhoods with the gospel? You’ll spend time hearing what God says in His word about evangelism, as well as time overcoming fears, praying with, and learning alongside other believers as you engage culture! Email international@thejourney.org if so.
  • Are you interested in learning more about what God is and has been doing to reveal Himself to the whole world? Consider taking a class many Journey members have taken and found to be transformative - Perspectives of the World Christian Movement. Reach out to international@thejourney.org for more information and testimonials.
  • Have you ever considered going overseas long-term to live amongst a people group and help them know and worship Jesus Christ? Our Mobilization Team is here to help you pray and process this, and we have a training process to help equip you for this work of ministry! Email international@thejourney.org for more information.
  • Are you interested in financially supporting those bringing the gospel to the people with the least access in the world? Even more specifically, are you supporting some of our church’s very own current global workers sharing Christ where He is least known (or those preparing to do so)? Email international@thejourney.org if so and please indicate whether you are most interested in caring for those we have sent to the field to help prolong their longevity and thriving there, supporting them financially, or both.

For Further Clarification

For a very clarifying resource on what I mean when I say that Muslims on the other side of the globe are no more far from God than Muslims in St. Louis, “but the difference is access,” check out these two helpful videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WrHC7hXNoV8&t=1s
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4nbXRuStiiE&t=1s

For Further Application

Prayer on our own is often so challenging, and I know I pray more when there are others to pray with, so consider joining one of the following prayer groups at our church, or starting your own prayer group by going to this link.

West County Prayer Team
Hanley Road - Together in Prayer
Tower Grove Prayer Group

For an excellent resource on how to pray consistently for those you see regularly in life whom you want to hear God’s voice, check out this brief prayer training.

Interested in opportunities to help other brothers and sisters in Christ around the world have access to the Word? Check out these two wonderful organizations and consider partnering with them in their Bible distribution efforts: 
The Voice of the Martyrs - a Bible for Every Believer
Elam Ministries - Send Bibles to Iran (The Fastest Growing Church)

The Voice of God Calling Me to Lie Down

Written by Carlos B. Smith, Lead Pastor of The Journey Hanley Road

He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. – Psalm 23:2

 

Psalm 23 is one of the most beloved Psalms in all of Scripture. In this Psalm, David, the Shepherd-King of Israel, reflects on how he himself had been shepherded by the Great Shepherd-King, YHWH. As David recounts the tender care of the Lord and His gracious provision for all of his needs, he reflects that God, “makes me lie down in green pastures” (Psalm 23:2). This is an interesting phrase. 

Why would the Lord make or cause David to lie down? Why didn’t David just lie down himself? David calls to mind his days as a shepherd, when one of his main duties would be to scout out appropriate pastures for the sheep to rest and graze. This is a critical role for the shepherd because sheep often can’t identify for themselves where it is most appropriate and safe for them to rest. 

In our current season, a time in which our nation and world is being ravaged by a pandemic, it can be tempting to give ourselves to distraction, busyness, and “productivity.” Could it be, however, that in the midst of the uncertain and perilous times in which we find ourselves, one of the byproducts of this season is the Lord MAKING us to lie down? Anyone who has ever been around a small child knows the lengths that a sleepy, cranky little one will go to fight off sleep. In those moments, the best thing a caregiver can do is to help create an environment for them to rest. 

Even before the coming of COVID-19, many of us were tired, burnt out, frustrated, and at the end of our ropes. Yet, like a sleepy toddler, some of us have continued to busy ourselves rather than learning to sabbath and reconnect with the Lord. More work. More emails. More projects. More activities. More. More. More…And here we are in a world that has become still. There are no events. The calendar is empty. The bars are closed. Perhaps He is MAKING us lie down.

I would encourage you in this unprecedented season to submit to our Shepherd-King, Jesus Christ. He declares that, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:14) and I believe that our Good Shepherd is beckoning us is to come to Him “all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Don’t miss the Lord’s call to you in this season. It is time to rest and trust Him. Submit to His call to lie down and rest in Him. 

Some additional resources:

The Voice of God to the Unseen

Written by Brett Vaden, Director of Discipleship and Curriculum Development 

"But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine." (Isaiah 43:1)

I gave up coffee this Lent, except on Sundays. Instead of drinking coffee during the week, I've made green tea lattes (with almond milk and a tablespoon of maple syrup); not a terrible substitute, but also not coffee. I've looked forward to Sundays in a new way.

During the 40 days leading up to Easter, many Christians fast, setting aside something they normally enjoy or depend on, reminding them to set their hearts and desires on God. Fasting can help us attune to God, stripping away things that have become distractions.

All of us have been fasting from something this Lent, intentionally or not. Maybe for you, it's been a fast from people (self-isolation), physical proximity and touch (social distancing), or your work/home routine. Whatever it has looked like for you, however it's stripped you of your status quo, or made you realize something about yourself or others, here's a question for you: Has your heart opened up to God? Have you been attuned to Him? Are you aware of His presence or His voice? Maybe so, and you're experiencing His presence very strongly and vividly. Maybe not, and you've felt distant from Him, separated or isolated, or maybe lost and forsaken.

I have felt both things: being close to God, and far away. But recently I had an unexpected encounter with Jesus. My Mom really wanted me to watch a TV show about Jesus and his disciples, called "The Chosen." I was skeptical about it, but I watched the first episode (and then the first season). In the show I saw Jesus afresh, and heard him speaking again, speaking especially to that part of me that feels distant, alone, and unseen: "Thus says the Lord who created you, fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine."

Being able to hear the Lord is a great gift. Being attuned to his presence is life-giving and sweet.

Think of what your own heart needs from the Savior who redeems you, who calls you by name. Cry out to him.

Listen to him. Jesus says to us, "If you have ears, then hear." If you are feeling distant or unseen, then go to your closet (Matthew 6:6) and be seen and known.

Invite others into His presence. Call them. Write them a letter. Sit across from them at the table, or across the screen.

To help you, my partners and I want to share some resources that have helped us. See the list below.

"The Chosen" TV Show. This is the show I referenced above. "The Chosen is the first-ever-multi-season TV show about the life of Jesus. Created outside of the Hollywood system, The Chosen allows us to see Him through the eyes of those who knew him. No matter where you are at in your journey with Jesus Christ, this TV show is for you" (from the website). I recommend it for everyone, with parental discretion because some scenes (particularly in episode 1) may be too heavy/scary for younger kids. The best way to see the show is for free via The Chosen app (Android, IOS), but DVD's are also available for purchase.

Live Online Prayer Groups. While we may approach God alone as individuals, there is something powerfully helpful about coming to him in the company of others. Praying with other believers can strengthen our faith, leading us into God's presence. Check out these prayer groups that are meeting online:

Bible Reading Plans. Here are two plans focusing on God's presence: All Shall Be Well: Awakening to God's Presence (YouVersion) and Practicing The Presence Of God: Old Habits For A New Year (Dwell)

Music Playlist. Blogger and editor Brett McCracken (The Gospel Coalition) created a playlist called "Songs of Comfort for Anxious Souls." You can find it at these music apps: SpotifyApple MusicAmazon Music

Book on Prayer. A Praying Life by Paul Miller, recommended by Pastor Jason Arens.

Interview with N.T. Wright. In the middle of the chaos and disruption Covid19 has brought, we need to hear from elder Christians (i.e., older men and women with experience and proven character) can provide steady counsel and encouragement. In this video, minister and Oxford scholar N.T. Wright speaks about being a Christian during Covid19. He begins by sharing how it's affected him personally, and then gives some very wise and fresh insights on these questions:

  • (5:00) How can Christians keep themselves spiritually nourished during self-isolation?
  • (8:00) How have Christians responded to widespread disease in the past?
  • (13:00) What should we think about God's part in suffering and evil?
  • (21:00) How can we best care for others?
  • (24:00) How can we use technology well?
  • (29:50) What might the future look like?
  • (31:00) Wright prays for Christians and the world during this time.
  • Want more from N.T. Wright? Get his free Ebook, Resurrection and the Renewal of Creation. (Note: While I don't agree with everything Wright writes--pun intended!-- there's much I think we can learn from this Anglican brother.)

     

THE VOICE OF GOD TO THE FEARFUL: REFLECTIONS FROM A WORKING MOM

Written by Brandi Arndt, Formation and Discipleship Curriculum Specialist

The days are long, and many of us are fearful and bone-weary. The threat of COVID-19 is real, and the impacts of it have altered the daily lives of every American. I’m a 34-year-old mother of two, and I have three jobs: homeschool teacher, physical therapist, and writer for The Journey. But I’m one of the lucky ones. Several of my close friends have safely weathered the virus (thank you, Lord), but I know that is not so for many reading this. And even at the time of your reading this, that may not still be true for me. I fear for the health of my kids, my parents, my family, and my friends. I fear I may not have a paycheck in a few weeks. Will I have enough time to teach my kids the things they need to know? The “what ifs?” can be paralyzing.

You. Are Not. Alone. Every day I travel to the clinic to treat patients who desperately need therapy to regain use of their bodies, and I sanitize everything in the clinic my patients touch. Every day I come home I fear I may not have done enough. Will I unwittingly bring harm home to my family in the form of a microscopic hitchhiker whose life-threatening presence will not make its arrival known until it’s too late? After the hand sanitizer, a hot shower and throwing my soiled clothes in the laundry, I can finally hug my kids. Many of you may be coming home to an empty house, and the silence may be deafening. Maybe your home is an unsafe environment and you fear for the safety of yourself or your children. The stakes are high. No matter your situation, left to our own devices, our thoughts threaten to turn against us. The seeds of worry can quickly grow to a mountain of fear. The following is a puritan prayer from a little book called The Valley of Vision that has brought me much comfort in this time. Let us turn to the Lord together, for his shoulders are broad enough to carry our burdens. 

SOVEREIGN COMMANDER OF THE UNIVERSE,

I am sadly harassed by doubts, fears, unbelief,
in a felt spiritual darkness.
My heart is full of evil surmising and disquietude,
and I cannot act faith at all.
My heavenly Pilot has disappeared,
and I have lost my hold on the Rock of Ages;
I sink in deep mire beneath storms and waves,
in horror and distress unutterable.
Help me, O Lord,
to throw myself absolutely and wholly on thee,
for better, for worse, without comfort,
and all but hopeless.
Give me peace of soul, confidence, enlargement of mind,
morning joy that comes after night heaviness;
Water my soul with divine blessings;
Grant that I may welcome that humbling in private
so that I might enjoy thee in public;
Give me a mountain top as high as the valley is low.
Thy grace can melt the worst sinner, and I am as vile as he;
Yet thou hast made me a monument of mercy,
a trophy of redeeming power;
In my distress let me not forget this.
All-wise God,
Thy never-failing providence orders every event,
sweetens every fear,
reveals evil’s presence lurking in seeming good,
brings real good out of seeming evil,
makes unsatisfactory what I set my heart upon,
to show me what a short-sighted creature I am,
and to teach me to live by faith upon
thy blessed self.
Out of sorrow and night
give me the name Naphtali –
‘satisfied with favor’ –
help me to love thee as thy child,
and to walk worthy of my heavenly pedigree.

Additional Resource

  • 10-min read on what we can learn from our brothers and sisters around the world

Some Inspiration for These Perilous & Uncertain Times

Written by Slade Johnson, Pastor of Formation and Discipleship

“. . . for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

A consciousness of our powerlessness should cast us upon Him who has all power. Here then is where a vision and view of God's sovereignty helps, for it reveals His sufficiency and shows us our insufficiency. —Arthur W. Pink 

Often our despair is caused by our inability to see and know what God sees and knows. Of course, He chooses carefully what He allows us to understand. God knows exactly what we can bear. The great gift of God to us is knowledge of His sovereignty. God offers us a spiritual bargain for our consideration. In the Christian life, often what is best for us is that which the rest of the world sees as a hindrance. Trusting in one’s self is seen as a great virtue by contemporary society. There is real danger in self-sufficiency for the Christian because it inevitably edges God out of the equation. If I am sufficient in myself, why do I need God? Why bother trying to understand His sovereignty if I am my own guide and strength? I exchange my weakness and fear for His power. My self-serving love for His other-worldly self-giving love. God offers me His brand of empowered self-control if I will relinquish my insistence on being my own navigator through this life’s journey. That is a bargain too good to pass up.

Additional Resource

"Dare to Hope in God: How to Lament Well." In this short read, Mark Vroegop, pastor of College Park Church in Indy and author of Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament, teaches us how to turn toward God when sorrow tempts us to run from him.


   
   
   

Pastor Recommendations

Curtis Gilbert (Senior Pastor)

  • Bible Reading: Exodus. Reflect on how God reveals himself to his people and what it looks like for them to trust him in new ways.

Carlos Smith (Hanley Road)

Charlie MacIsaac (Metro East)

Jason Arens (South County)

John Chung (Tower Grove)

Scott Hickox (West County) 

Tim Holley (West County)

  • Bible Reading: Philippians. Reflect on what it means to find contentment and even rejoice in all circumstances.
   
   
   

Sermon Series Resources

Books and articles to dig deeper in personal reflection and application on Colossians 3:18-21. Sermon preached by Pastor Jason Arens on Sunday, May 24th.

Women & Christianity

Marriage

Parenting