Loving The Journey

Weekly Newsletter

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May 24, 2023

"Graduation Sunday"

Hello Journey Family and Friends,

What a special Sunday this past Sunday was as it was Freedom Sunday and we discussed our partnership with International Justice Mission. If you missed it, I highly encourage you to watch our friend from Ghana, Leo Ackon, share a powerful message on how we are invited into God’s plan of redemption. The full message can be watched below.
Well, we are in the thick of graduation season as many students are graduating from high school or college this month. This is hitting home for our family as my daughter, Callie Joy, is graduating from high school; wahooooo!!!

This Sunday, we will have a special time to celebrate Journey’s high school graduates. In honor of my daughter and all the graduates everywhere, I wanted to write this week’s Loving the Journey on what I am telling Callie Joy as she enters adult life.
Embrace your inner Peter Pan. Yes, you have to grow up (we all do), but that doesn’t mean you have to reject all aspects of your childhood. For example, I love how kids have such a deep sense of awe and wonder about life and God. Never lose your sense of awe and wonder of God. Never stop dreaming. Never stop believing in a better tomorrow.  In Matthew 18:3-4, Jesus tells us, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”  
Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Direction matters a lot more than speed. Set your foot on the right path and just keep moving forward. Zechariah 4:10 says, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…”.  Your graduation may feel in many ways like a finish line, but it’s more like a starting line. God has so much in store for you.  
Keep the main thing the main thing. Life will offer you great opportunities and possibilities. When you graduate, your options will be limitless. But never forget to keep the main thing the main thing, and the main thing is Jesus. No matter how busy you get, no matter how far you go, and no matter how successful you become, never stop making Jesus your #1 priority. “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33
Words matter. Please, sorry, and thank you are some of the most powerful words in the English language. Use them and use them often. If you are grateful for something, thank someone and thank God. When you make a mistake, tattle on yourself. Own it, learn from it, and move on. People are a lot more gracious to the humble than they are to the arrogant. Manners matter. Be kind in how you talk and treat everyone; they are all made in the image of God. The Golden Rule, found in Matthew 7:12, calls us to “treat others the way we want to be treated.”    
Never give up; never lose hope. At times you will face disappointment, don’t let it define you. As Christians, we are hope dealers. We receive and give hope away. Proverbs 24:16 says, “Though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again.” The mark of a righteous person here isn’t that they don’t fall down but that they keep getting up. Never stop getting up when life knocks you down.  
Be Hur! The Israelites were in a battle against the Amalekites, and the Bible emphasizes how they won. Exodus 17:11-12 says, “As long as Moses held up his hands (with his staff), the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset.” In a world where so many people want to be Moses, be Hur! Always look for someone that you can support as they are doing God’s work.  
Trust God. Throughout your life, you will have to make thousands of decisions. Many times, your opinion will be different from God’s. Always trust God over anything else. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Never get tired of trusting God with your life, and you’ll never regret it.
Callie Joy, the path is yours to take, just know you will never walk it alone.  I’m here for you every step of the way.
And to all graduating seniors, you are not going into the “real world”, we are sending you into the "real world” in the name of Jesus. Go and shine brightly, knowing your church family is here for you every step of the way!
I’m loving the graduate-launching Journey,
Pastor Dustin Aagaard
Lead Pastor
Journey Christian Church
May 10, 2023

"Life Lessons From The Summit"

Hello Journey Family and Friends,

First, let me wish all the moms a very Happy Mother’s Day. We are excited to celebrate you this weekend at Journey. I can’t imagine a world without all the superhero mothers out there. Your strength, grace, wisdom, love, support, and incredible beauty is matchless. We love you!  

For those that may not know, I am in a cohort (a small group) with Lead Pastors from around the US and Canada. We are all pastors of larger churches that are in the midst of a Lead Pastor transition (like I did in January 2023). A couple of times a year, we come together and visit other churches that have navigated succession successfully and learn from them. We get coached, encouraged, and developed, and it’s become one of the greatest things for me and I believe, for Journey as well.  

I say all of that to let you know that I am currently in Phoenix, Arizona, but I will be at church Sunday, and I am looking forward to it.  

My flight brought me in a little earlier than some of the others so on Monday morning, I decided to go for a little prayer hike and take in God’s beautiful desert mountains. I wanted to share with you a wide variety of things God spoke to me about on the hike.
1.          Know what you are getting into but be flexible. I took the hike with the understanding that it was 1 ¼ miles long. Upon further review, that’s exactly how long the hike was, just to get to the top. This means it was double the amount of time and effort than I anticipated! Sometimes a relationship takes twice as much time and energy to bring reconciliation; do it anyways. Sometimes it takes twice as long to get out of debt than you anticipated; do it anyways.
2.         I had to keep my mind on the summit, but my eyes needed to stay focused on my next step. If you tried hiking without watching your step, you’d get seriously hurt or worse. Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path,” reminds us that God’s light is often for the next step right in front of you. He will unveil the rest later.
3.         To get to the top, you’ve got to deal with the gnats. There were gnats around me the entire hike up. God reminded me that when anyone tries to achieve anything of significance, there are always some people that try to discourage you.  Maybe they’ve had a bad day, week, or life, but too often, all they seem to do is murmur and complain. God reminded me that they will always be there and that I must ensure that I do my best not to be a gnat to anyone. I love how Nehemiah dealt with his gnat, Sanballat; he said, “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it to go down to you?” Nehemiah 6:3
4.        Around every turn, there is always a new challenge. That’s just hiking, and that’s just life. No reason to complain, fuss, or act surprised. The only thing I could do was assess the challenge and keep moving forward. Paul emphatically says, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what’s ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14
5.         Falling is part of the journey, but there are ways to minimize the risk. On a desert and rocky terrain, tripping is part of the journey. However, you can minimize the risk simply by staying away from the edge. In life, we will make mistakes, but we may limit the damage we create to others or to ourselves by avoiding certain areas that we are especially susceptible to. “The righteous fall seven times, but they get up eight.” Proverbs 24:16
6.        Fun Fact: there was a rescue helicopter circling me even though there was no emergency. My best guess is that someone who was on the way down the mountain saw me as I was on my way up the mountain and thought, “this guy is going to need some medical assistance”, ha!
7.          Several groups jumped out of their cars at the bottom of the mountain, got a selfie with the mountain, and took off. There’s nothing bad about that at all. I’m sure I’ve done something similar many times. However, we must be wary of taking selfies with God with no intention of walking with Him. Jesus tells us, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 7:21
8.         Interestingly, I didn’t notice the gnats at the top. Either they weren’t there, or I was blown away by God’s beauty so much that the annoyance of the gnats couldn’t hold a candle to God’s glory. I like to think it was the latter.
Pastor and leadership guru John Maxwell once said, “Everything worthwhile is uphill.” What a beautiful and accurate statement. I don’t know what mountain you are climbing today, but keep going. The view at the top is breathtaking. Maybe you’ve been climbing longer than anticipated, or you’ve been distracted by a swarm of gnats, or maybe you can’t seem to stop falling down. I get it; I really do. But dust yourself off and keep moving forward. The climb is worth it. Don’t turn back now. You’ve come too far. God’s got something special waiting for you on that summit.  
I’m loving the summit climbing Journey,
Pastor Dustin Aagaard
Lead Pastor
Journey Christian Church