Loving The Journey

Weekly Newsletter

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December 6, 2023

LOVING THE JOURNEY WITH... Pastor Dustin Aagaard
"Christmas Calendar"

Dear Journey Friends and Family,

This past Sunday, we kicked off a new Christmas series called “My First Christmas…”. The thought is that a lot of us are experiencing a first this Christmas.  Maybe this is your first Christmas…
·      Married or married again
·      With kids or grandkids
·      Without someone you love
·      As a Christian
·      At Journey
·      As empty nesters
·      Sober

Whatever your “first” may be this Christmas, I want to challenge you to do one of two things. The first is to identify what “first” you are going through. If your “first” is positive, then I encourage you to thank God for that blessing. If your “first” is a source of loss or pain, let me say how terribly sorry I am for your loss and all the pain and heartache you are going through. Although I know it won’t be easy, I encourage you to cling to Jesus this Christmas season like never before. I recently read a statement from Pastor Sam Allberry:
“O come all ye faithless, joyless and defeated.
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Christmas is for the weary, for the messed-up, for the broken. If your life isn’t Instagrammable, Christmas is for you.”  
If that describes you or someone you know, then I want to invite you to join us this Sunday as we continue our series, “My First Christmas…”

At Journey, we want to do our best to meet people right where they are this Christmas season. That’s why we’ve got a lot of things in the pipeline over the next 30 days, and we want to keep you in the loop. We’ve got a little something for everybody.

Jingle Jam is a Christmas celebration big enough for the whole family! You and your kids (and your friends) are invited to join us at either our Apopka or Lake County campuses this Friday, December 8th from 7-8:30 pm. Click here for more details.

We are partnering with the Jordan Smelski Foundation again this Christmas by hosting the Jordan Sporting Goods Store at our Apopka Campus this Saturday, December 9th. All items will be given away for FREE to families and children in need (while supplies last). If you are a family in need or know one who is, please direct them to our Apopka Campus this Saturday. For more details or to help volunteer during this event, click here.

We understand that times can be hard, especially this time of year. This is why we have a ministry called Food For Life. On the 2nd Saturday of every month (year-round), we provide free breakfast and bags of food through our Food for Life ministry. If you or someone you know is in need and could benefit from the blessing of food, we welcome you to stop by our Apopka Campus this Saturday, December 9th. Food distribution starts at 7:30am (doors open at 6:30am) while supplies last.

Our annual Christmas Bash is an end-of-year Christmas party for middle school and high school students. It's a night Journey Students and their friends will not want to miss at either of our campuses on Wednesday, December 20th from 7-9 pm. Click here for more details.

We want to invite you and your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers to join us this Christmas Eve at Journey Christian Church. We have 10 identical family-friendly services for you to choose from. You can find digital invitations, serving opportunities, and more details by clicking here.

The Sunday after Christmas is New Year’s Eve, and we invite you to ring in the New Year with Journey Online. There will be NO in-person services Sunday, December 31st. Instead, we will have an ONLINE ONLY service available on New Year’s Eve. If you have never joined us for an online experience, this is a great opportunity to gather some friends or family and join us at YouTube.com/JourneyChristian for a special service.  

JANUARY 7, 2024
January 7th will be our first Sunday back for our regularly scheduled in-person worship services at both Lake County and Apopka. I’m excited to dive into 2024 and see all God has in store for us.  

As you have just read, we’ve got a lot of great things happening over the next thirty days. You can also follow us on social media @fljourneychurch or visit journeychristian.com to stay connected. Know that I love you and wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas!

I’m loving the Christmas Season Journey,

Pastor Dustin Aagaard
Lead Pastor
Journey Christian Church

November 29, 2023

LOVING THE JOURNEY WITH... Pastor Dustin Aagaard
"The Time Has Come"

Dear Journey Friends and Family, 

The wait is over. Christmas is finally here. You probably don’t need me to tell you that. As the song goes, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas everywhere you go.” 

The stores are filled with Christmas decorations. The commercials are all set to reel you into some sort of Christmas purchase. The smells are full of holiday scents such as pine, gingerbread, the fireplace, and hot chocolate. The weather even dipped into the 40s this week, amazing! I love this time of year, and I’m all in when it comes to the enchantment of Christmas.

However, that’s not at all what I was talking about. When I say the wait is over and Christmas is finally here, I’m talking about the highly anticipated wait for the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Did you know that there were 400 years of silence from the last prophet speaking from God until the arrival of Jesus? It’s known as the “400 Silent Years” because in that time frame, no new prophets were raised by God, and as far as we know, God did not reveal anything new during that time. But that silence ended when God sent John the Baptist to prepare the way for the coming Messiah, Jesus! Matthew 3:1-3 tells us,
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”

Did you know that Jesus fulfilled at least 300 prophecies in His earthly ministry? Cru Ministry reports that Peter Stoner, Chairman of the Departments of Mathematics and Astronomy at Pasadena College, was passionate about biblical prophecies. With 600 students from the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Stoner looked at eight specific prophecies about Jesus.They came up with extremely conservative probabilities for each one being fulfilled and then considered the likelihood of Jesus fulfilling all eight of those prophecies. The conclusion to his research was staggering. In his book Science Speaks, he described it like this:

“Let us try to visualize this chance. If you mark one of ten tickets, and place all of the tickets in a hat, and thoroughly stir them, and then ask a blindfolded man to draw one, his chance of getting the right ticket is one in ten. Suppose that we take 100,000,000 silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They will cover all of the state two feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly all over the state.  Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one. What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that the prophets would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man.”

Did you know that the word Advent is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming?” You and I were born in a time after the Messiah, Jesus, had arrived. However, many others in history were not as blessed. Jewish people and those in search of God who walked the planet over 2,000 years ago would have been in anticipation of the Messiah.

The arrival of Jesus was very much a long-awaited celebration and one that came with the greatest news our world has ever known. That the God of the Universe became flesh. He is nothing like we thought and everything like we hoped.

The wait is over. Christmas is here. Let the celebrations begin!

I invite you to bring a friend and join us this December as we celebrate the arrival of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I’m loving Advent Season Journey, 

Pastor Dustin Aagaard 
Lead Pastor
Journey Christian Church

November 15, 2023

LOVING THE JOURNEY WITH... Pastor Dustin Aagaard
"Christmas Wish List"

Hello Journey friends and family,

Growing up, I remember anticipating the arrival of the old Sears Christmas Catalog every November. If you are unfamiliar with it, it was a brilliant idea to send to families a catalog of things they should request for Christmas. For my family, it was a great tool to help us decide what we wanted for ourselves or to buy for each other each Christmas. I loved it!

Sadly, with the decline of Christian bookstores, it has become more difficult for people to simply browse a bookstore to see what they may be interested in. This means too many Christians have no idea about the vast number of great Christian resources that are available to them. Long’s Christian Bookstore is one of the few and maybe only Christian Bookstores in Orlando. This is my family's Bookstore, as my Uncle currently owns and operates it. I don’t know if it’s because I grew up with this wonderful store in my family or not, but I can’t imagine where I’d be without so many great resources that have bolstered my faith along my journey.   

It’s that time of year for us to rack our brains for hours on what we want for Christmas and what we can get others for Christmas. I took the liberty of making your life a bit easier this holiday season. I came up with a wide variety of Christian resources that can help you get your shopping done and, at the same time, help people experience God in a fresh new way. These are all resources that I have read and highly recommend. I hope you’ll grab one for yourself and for someone you love.  

Go ahead and check these books out for yourself or someone on your shopping list by clicking here: Christmas Wish List

I pray that they each minister to you as they have to me. Happy shopping, and I’ll see you Sunday!

I’m loving the Christmas Shopping Journey,

Pastor Dustin Aagaard 
Lead Pastor
Journey Christian Church
November 8, 2023

LOVING THE JOURNEY WITH... Pastor Dustin Aagaard
"God Is Good"

Hello Journey friends and family,

I don’t know about you, but I love this time of year! We are officially entering the holiday season, and it’s even getting cooler outside. It’s incredible how fast the year has flown by.

For those new to Journey this year, 2023 was a year of transition for us as a church. In January, I was honored to step into the Lead Pastor position after a multiple-year transition plan with our elders and previous Lead Pastor, Pastor John Hampton. In some ways, it feels like it’s been more than a year, and in other ways, it feels like it was just yesterday.

Although I’m still learning some things in my rookie season as the Lead Pastor of Journey, I always understood that it’s my job to lead the way when it comes to trusting God in every way. One of those ways that I am to lead the way in trusting God is with our finances. My role is to trust God, invite people into what God is doing, and then be the best steward of His resources that we can be.  

This year, we’ve seen a record number of people taking steps toward Jesus in a wide variety of ways.
  • Our Next Generation Ministry has grown in almost every way this year.
    • Summer Jam: Our Journey Kids Camp served 503 elementary kids through 242 volunteers. That’s the biggest that event has ever been, and it’s a 20% increase over the previous year.
    • Back to School Bash is our largest Journey Students event of the year.  This year, we were able to serve 358 teenagers! That’s the biggest student ministry gathering ever at Journey, and an increase of 30% over last year.
  • Serve Day: Twice a year (Spring and Fall), we host Serve Day events to serve our communities to show them that we Love Where We Live! Between both events this year, we saw an average of 609 participants. That’s an increase of 38%!
  • Sunday Attendance: We have seen a growth in our in-person weekend worship services of over 400 people this year. That’s an increase of over 22% from attendance last year!
  • Baptisms: So far in 2023, we’ve had a front-row seat of a fresh move of God as we have seen 365 people say “yes” to Jesus and be baptized! It’s the most baptisms we’ve ever had by 25%, and we still have six weeks left in the year!

I continue to be in awe of all God is doing! It’s incredible to see so many people just like you take bold, faith-filled steps toward Him. I love it and thank God daily for what He is doing among us.

However, an increase in ministry scope that large means an increase in ministry needs that is significant. I want to invite you to take another step in your faith journey. I want to invite you to become a financial partner with Journey Christian Church to make a Kingdom impact as we look to finish the year stronger than ever financially. Isaiah tells us, “Generous people plan to do what is generous.”  Isaiah 32:8

I am asking you to create a generosity plan. Here’s what I mean:
  • If you do not currently give, would you consider giving to Journey? 
  • If you have given, would you consider giving consistently?
  • If you give consistently, would you consider tithing?
    • Tithing is not a legalistic requirement to get into Heaven. But it is a Biblical benchmark of growing followers of Jesus who give God 10% of their income to the local church.
  • If you tithe, would you prayerfully consider giving a special year-end gift to help us finish the year strong? 
My prayer is that you’d partner with us as we continue to passionately look for more ways we can make disciples of Jesus who REACH out to love our neighbors, SERVE the hurting, and DEVELOP leaders for ministry. Because I genuinely believe as great as 2023 has been, I think God is just getting started at Journey, and the best is yet to come.  

As you may know, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, is generally known as “Giving Tuesday.” It is a global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world. I want to ask you to commit to praying for a surge in generosity between now and November 28.

There are five simple ways you can give:
  1. Online: You can give one-time or set up a recurring gift at journeychristian.com/give
  2. Mail: You can mail a check to Journey Christian Church located at 1965 S.Orange Blossom Trail, Apopka, FL 32703.
  3. Text: Send a text message with the amount of your donation to 84321.
  4. App: You can give through our Journey Christian Church app. Download links are on our homepage at journeychristian.com.
  5. Giving Stations: Although we do not have an offering time where we pass a bucket during our services, we do have giving stations at each physical location.

I recently got a powerful email from a Journey Christian Church partner named Connie. Connie told me that five years ago, she heard a challenge to increase her tithe by 1% a year, and that’s exactly what she’s been doing ever since. Now, her giving is at 15%. How cool is that? Maybe that resonates with you, and you’d like to take that same financial challenge.  

Whichever way you challenge yourself to grow in your giving, I pray you say “yes” to another step toward Jesus. I know that it will not only bless you but also make a bigger difference than you can imagine. I look forward to seeing you Sunday as we welcome my friend and author of Analog Christian (the book our summer series was based on), Jay Kim, as we continue week two in our Speak Life series.

I’m loving the God-Filled Journey,

Pastor Dustin Aagaard
Lead Pastor
Journey Christian Church

November 1, 2023

LOVING THE JOURNEY WITH... Pastor Dustin Aagaard
"Love Where You Live"

Hello Journey friends and family,

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
1 Peter 4:10
This past Saturday was Serve Day. Twice a year, we hold a Serve Day in the spring and the fall. Serve Day is a day where we all stack hands and live out 1 Peter 4:10. It’s a day where we all bring our individual gifts and talents to make an impact bigger than any of us could make on our own. If you missed Serve Day, here’s a quick recap video.

One of the ways we served the community was by hosting a free car wash at our Apopka Campus. Through that simple act of kindness, I met two people who are new to Journey. One was a man named Matt. He pulled into the car wash just like everyone else, but we found out that we washed more than his car; we washed his home. You see, unfortunately, Matt is homeless and currently lives in his car. The volunteers gracefully loved Matt and invited him to join us for lunch, which he accepted. I watched how our team loved on, served, and welcomed Matt. That’s how I got to meet Matt and hear his story and his heart. I love how you love people! 

On Sunday, I had the privilege of meeting a woman named Lisa. Lisa attended the 10:00am service at our Apopka Campus, and I was able to hear her story, as well. Sunday was her first time at Journey. I asked her how she ended up coming to Journey, and she told me, “Yesterday, I came to the free car wash. The people loved me so well that I felt the presence of God, and I thought, if I feel God this much from a car wash, then this is the kind of church I want to go to.” How awesome is that! I love how you love people!

In Lake County, we sent a team to a women’s home to help clean up and landscape the exterior of the home. The home belongs to a woman who has sadly had mental struggles for years. On Friday, the pallet of mulch was dropped off at her home so that it would be ready to be spread out for the team the next morning. Unfortunately, the homeowner took every bag of mulch, opened it up, and spread it out all over the sod in the front yard. This is not where it was meant to go. It was not meant to go on top of the grass; it was meant to go in the places that didn’t have sod, around flower beds, trees, and around the home. The team was a bit shocked when they arrived at the home, and I loved what they did next. They raked up all the mulch, sifted through it to get rid of the trash that was inadvertently gathered as well, and then placed the mulch where it was intended to go all along.  Not a complaint in the air. It wasn’t what the team expected, and I don’t think their response is what the homeowner expected, either. That day, the team didn’t just offer landscaping duties; they offered grace, patience, kindness, and gentleness. I love how you love people!

The tagline of Serve Day is, “Love Where You Live.” We don’t have to attend Serve Day to love where we live. Maybe you couldn’t make it to Serve Day this time. Here’s my challenge to all of us: would you find someone in your neighborhood, workplace, or in your life and simply find a way to serve them this week? Don’t overthink it or make it too complicated; just explore a way to serve someone and go for it. It doesn’t matter how small it is. As Mother Teresa reminds us, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can all do small things with great love.”

Journey, I love how you love people. Thanks for being you! Keep shining, and know that I am so grateful to be your pastor. 

I want to invite you to join us this Sunday as we kick off a brand-new series called Speak Life: How to Redeem and Revive the Holidays. The goal of the series is to help prepare us for how we can make the most of our holiday season with our friends and family. Hope you can join us!

I’m loving the “Love Where You Live” Journey,

Pastor Dustin Aagaard 
Lead Pastor
Journey Christian Church
October 25, 2023

LOVING THE JOURNEY WITH... Pastor Dustin Aagaard

Hello Journey friends and family,

So much happened in the life of our church last week that I don’t want to miss celebrating a special occasion that took place. Last week, our elders ordained Tammy Joseph as a Pastor in ministry. This was a special moment for Tammy as well as our church community. Tammy has served at Journey for four years. She currently serves as Journey’s Pastor of Next Generation Ministries. She also has been instrumental in the success of our Residency Program, as well as our Serve Days. Over the years, I have seen Tammy’s heart for God, the Church, and ministry grow exponentially. I have served alongside Tammy and have seen how God has stirred in her and moved powerfully through her. I am convinced God’s hand and favor are on her. Tammy is an incredible woman of God. She is a great mom and wife, as well as a strong leader for the gospel and the Church.

  • Who is Tammy Joseph?
    • Tammy is from Buffalo, New York. Thus, she’s a huge Buffalo Bills fan. Tammy has three kids and has been married for 18 years. Tammy enjoys outside activities with her family, has a massive heart for Journey, and deeply believes in the next generation.

  • Is Tammy the first female to be ordained at Journey Christian Church? 
    • No, our elders settled the conversation regarding ordaining women into ministry in 2015 after a full year of prayer, fasting, and studying the scriptures. At the end of their process, they aligned to both ordain women in ministry and allow them to teach. It is important to note that both the ordination and teaching were under the authority of the elders, as well as the Lead Pastor.  

  • Tammy, tell us how your spiritual journey began.
    • As an 18-year-old college student, I found myself caught up in the sinful behaviors of this world. When I ventured out of my mother’s home and started experiencing life in new surroundings, I began to realize that I needed something more in my life. I felt empty, ashamed, and hopeless. I actively sought to find true fulfillment. I was living with a family, and in order for me to live rent-free, they said I must go to church. They didn’t care what church, just a Christian one. I was working with a group of young adults who always talked about church, so I decided to check it out. When I went to this church, I could feel there was something different. I started to recognize that my sins were not only separating me from God, but also hinder me from living the abundant life He had intended for me. Just a few months after going to church every week, I knew I had to make a decision to surrender my life to God. During a Sunday morning service, the gospel was shared, and I decided to follow Jesus. Shortly after, I took the step of publicly expressing my faith through baptism.  

It’s always an exciting time when you get to see a friend and co-laborer of the gospel get ordained into ministry. At the same time, we realize that some of you may have questions regarding the role of women in ministry. For more details about Journey's beliefs on the role of women in ministry, you can click here.  

I’m loving the Journey,

Pastor Dustin Aagaard 
Lead Pastor
Journey Christian Church
October 18, 2023

LOVING THE JOURNEY WITH... Pastor Dustin Aagaard
"Mountaintops and Valleys"

Hello Journey friends and family,

In last Sunday’s message, I shared some tragic events people in our community are going through. If you missed it, you can watch the message below.

Romans 12:15, tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

Have you ever had a season where life was going so well that you thought life couldn’t get any better? Then, suddenly, it felt like someone pulled the rug out from underneath you in every area of your life.

That’s what happened to Elijah at Mt. Carmel. In 1 Kings 18, we read a powerful and humorous story of how God used Elijah to do the impossible and incredible. Elijah is a prophet and enters the scene where it's him versus 850 false prophets. The false prophets were enemies of Elijah and were already killing other prophets of God. Yet, Elijah boldly challenged all of them once and for all to see whose god was the real God. Elijah’s “Godfidence” in this moment is at an all-time high. After an epic display of God’s power, God shows Himself as the one true God. It was an incredible miracle and one that only God could script. It would go down as one of the greatest moments of Elijah’s life to see God show up in the way He did!

Once Jezebel got word of how God used Elijah on Mt. Carmel, she vowed to kill him. This was his response, “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.”  (1 Kings 19:3)

How in the world did Elijah go from having incredible spiritual swagger and extreme “Godfidence” one day to literally running for his life the next?  

Have you ever been there? One day, you’re telling God you’d go anywhere in the world and do whatever He wants. Then the next day you can barely utter a prayer. How do we go from revival to relapse so quickly?

Here are some thoughts to help us while we are on the mountain to prepare for the valley in our spiritual journeys.  

When you are on the mountaintop:
  • Recognize God’s goodness.
    • In 1 Kings 18, God didn’t have to show up on Mt. Carmel, but He did.  
    • When God shows up, recognize it, point it out to Him, and thank Him for His goodness.
  • Receive encouragement; don’t reject it. 
    • The valleys are too real and too deep for us to not fuel up on the mountaintop when others give us an encouraging word.

When you are in the valley:
  • Avoid the “Negative Nancys” in your life.
    • Negativity comes naturally. We don’t need help being negative. Avoid the people who try and bring that into your life or situation. 
    • Intentionally surround yourself with optimistic, hope-filled, joyful, and proven believers.

  • Be a valley worshipper.
    • Choose to worship God even when you don’t feel like it. 
    • I have a good friend who reminds me from time to time that “Satan doesn’t know what to do with a valley worshiper.” I’m not saying it’s easy to worship in the valley, but there is something sweet to worshipping in the valley that we can’t mimic on the mountaintop.

Whether you are on the mountaintop or in the valley, I want to encourage you to make it a priority to join us this Sunday as we continue our Glow & Tell series. We’ll be diving into Philippians chapter 3 if you’d like to read ahead.  

Either in the valley or on the mountaintop, I’m loving the Journey,

Pastor Dustin Aagaard
Lead Pastor
Journey Christian Church