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Ready to Move?

Aug 25, 2015   //   by James Johnson   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Our bodies are made for movement.
Think about it. If you hold still for too long, you’ll die. At some point, you’ll need to get something to eat. You’ll need to move to avoid getting a bedsore. You’ll need to get up to use the bathroom. Your muscles will atrophy to the point of uselessness if you don’t move. The health complications of inertia are tremendous.

Our bodies are fascinating. The brain, nervous system, muscular and skeletal structures… all of them have to be coordinated in order to move. Even now, though I am not moving much, my fingers are working in coordination with all of those things I just mentioned. I am thinking these thoughts, they are connecting with something that says, “type this” (a choice I am making), and the messages are getting sent to the fingers to type something on a keyboard that pop up on this screen. At some point, a reader reads this stuff (I’ll call that reader “you” for obvious reasons). Your eyes have to focus on the words. You have to interpret these shapes and process them. You can choose to agree or disagree, to apply them or say, “Meh, not for me today,” and move on.

At some point today, I will get up and go for a run at the gym (my brain is telling me it’s just too hot for a bike ride or an outdoor run… maybe a swim will do). Though all my various body parts may protest, they will all work together to get it done.

But all of it is coordinated.

Numbers 4 is, to me, a picture of a coordinated body. The tribes of Levi were delegated the responsibilities surrounding “The Dwelling,” where God met with His people in the wilderness. Aaron and his sons ministered forgiveness and reconciliation, the life-illustrated plan of salvation. They also coordinated all the packing and unpacking and setup and movement of each part of The Dwelling whenever they would get up and move. The sub-tribe Kohathites carried the implements and furnishings of The Dwelling, but weren’t to touch the furnishings themselves. Gershonites did the heavy lifting–all the fabric coverings and walls for The Dwelling. Merarites moved and set up the framework.

And all of it was coordinated by Aaron and his sons, the priests. God’s anointed ones coordinated the process of the community’s–the body’s–movement.

Here are a few things I learn from this.

  1. Today, I believe there is One anointed mediator for me. His Name is Jesus Christ. “Here is the main point: We have a High Priest who sat down in the place of honor beside the throne of the majestic God in heaven. There He ministers in the heavenly Tabernacle, the true place of worship that was built by the Lord and not by human hands… But now Jesus, our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood, for He is the one who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises” (Hebrews 8:1-2, 6). Jesus dispenses the light of the world, the Holy Spirit, and provides us with what we need for real and eternal life. He intercedes between me and the Father, and He takes my prayers to Him. He appears before the Mercy Seat and offers His one sacrifice for me. He does this, and NO OTHER. He is the One.
  2. God’s dwelling–me!–needs to be carefully and intentionally cared for. I am a Dwelling of movement, not lethargy. It needs to be a well-conditioned and cared for body that doesn’t sit around, but goes in coordination with God’s will.
  3. Jesus is the One to coordinate my movement and the movement of His body. I do not coordinate the church, or even my own family. I must seek His guidance and action in His will. If the Levite clans moved out of step with God’s instructions through Moses, Aaron and his sons, they risked inefficiency at best, death at worst (if the Kohathites touched the furnishings, they were dead). To jump ahead of Jesus today is to overstep into areas I have no business being. It is critical that I ask Him, each day, to place me in His plans, where He is going, where He is on mission.
What do you take away from this? Ready to move?

Center of Life

Aug 24, 2015   //   by James Johnson   //   Blog  //  No Comments

I have been reading through the Torah this year, taking time to observe what is written, consider what Moses meant when he wrote it, and thinking about what it it may mean in my context today. I fully expected to get some pretty good insights from Genesis-Leviticus. Honestly, I wish I had been writing about this already. But what I did not expect was the insights God would give me in Numbers.

The first three chapters of Numbers are powerful lessons in what should be central in our lives. Chapter 1 opens with Israel being numbered, registered for the army (those men who were 20 years old and up). The Levites were not to be registered, but set apart for their ministry in “The Dwelling.” Anyone who tried to do their job would be put to death.

israeliteencampment
“The Dwelling,” or “Tent of Meeting” where God met with Moses and Aaron and his sons ministered, was set up in the middle of camp. Around The Dwelling camped the Levites: Gershonites on the West, Merarites to the North, Kohathites to the South, and Aaron and Moses and their children on the east, nearest the entrance to The Dwelling.

The rest of Israel surrounded them. Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun to the West; Dan, Asher, and Naphtali to the North; Reuben, Simeon, and Gad to the South; and Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh to the East. Everyone’s tent faced inward, toward The Dwelling.

The Levites were not to be number with the other tribes. They were set apart for the work of The Dwelling. They belonged to God and by their service “redeemed” the first-born of every other tribe (as every first-born belonged to God). The first-born male of every tribe that exceeded the number of Levites were compensated for by paying 5 silver shekels to Aaron and his sons for their service in the Sanctuary.

A lot of things were accounted for and served as lessons to the tribes. Israel’s security was set up, but the center of their lives and security was The Dwelling. The tribes were not to be facing outward, as though guarding against an enemy, but inward, facing The Dwelling where God met with them.

Anyone who came to The Dwelling to offer a sacrifice would have to pass by the Levite families responsible for the ministry in the Sanctuary, which meant someone was always available to bring a fallen fellow Israelite to reconciliation (and that fellow Israelite couldn’t just “hide” his sin in his tent, so to speak).

That Tent was the absolute focal point of security, economy, and life. It was well-organized, functions were well-delegated (within the Levitical tribe), well-manned, and well-funded.

I take a few thoughts from this about our situation today.

  1. Today, each of us who claim to follow Christ claim the responsibility of a priest. The priests were “living sacrifices,” servants of God in His Dwelling. Today, we are to be such living sacrifices. I think of myself and my family. We belong to God as part of His community of priests. We are living sacrifices. Our selves are to be used in His service.
  2. Redemption, reconciliation… these are supposed to be central to our lives. We are called to be ministers to this purpose, all of us who claim the faith community of Christ.
  3. Our greatest energies, our budget, our security… these must revolve around what God is up to. His Dwelling ministry has not ended just because there isn’t a tent that we all face in the community. In fact, He is still at work, ministering reconciliation to us all before our Father in heaven. How do I spend my energy? In speaking life and redemption to people? Or in making ends meet?
  4. We all have a role to play. Some of us exist to lead the way (Judah, Issachar, Zebulun). Some of us guard against wolves coming in and destroying us (Ephraim, Dan, Reuben, and the ones with them). Some of us build up and maintain people, God’s new dwelling through the Holy Spirit. Some of us minister reconciliation most directly, bringing people to Jesus, our great high priest. When we fulfill our role, the whole community benefits. When we abdicate, the whole community is vulnerable and misses out.
Choose community. Choose life. Choose priesthood today. There’s a church who needs you. There are people in your neighborhood who need you. The High Priest wants you to take part. Make Him the center of your focus, your life, your economy, and your activity.

Thrive – In my Family

Jan 13, 2015   //   by James Johnson   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Families don’t thrive by mistake. It takes intentionality. It takes work, practice, repeating certain things until they become second nature even. Sometimes, though, isn’t it hard to keep from getting into a routine–or a rut, maybe–where you leave important things out of the process of thriving in your family? What can we do to stay on track with what God teaches about thriving as a family?

Key Scripture this week: Deuteronomy 6:4-9

(If you read this, let us know when you join us for worship this Saturday!)

What’s Happening – Weekend of December 6, 2014

Dec 3, 2014   //   by James Johnson   //   Blog  //  No Comments

CONNECTION GROUPS

Adult Sabbath School: “The Book of James” – Saturdays, 10:00 AM (Classroom #1)

Serving God Single – 2nd & 4th Fridays, 7:30 PM (Church)

Healthy Meals… – Dec 20, 1:30 PM (Fellowship Hall)

… Mary Heart in a Martha World – Next meeting, December 13, 1:00 PM (Classroom #3)

Stitching with a Purpose – 1st Saturdays, 1:30 PM (Fellowship Hall)

CHRISTMAS OFFERING

Our Christmas offering this year will go toward building a special needs and family restroom. We have just over $700 saved for this. Your generosity, above and beyond your regular giving, is greatly appreciated. Mark your “Tithes & Offerings” envelope “Christmas Offering” to give to this.

wePRAY

Saturday evening at 5:30 PM: pray for abundant life and mission at Carrollwood!

LOCAL MISSION

Our church needs your help to connect and develop and have the kind of community presence that we want to have. As we are largely a member-supported church, your generosity is greatly appreciated. Mark your “Tithes and Offerings” envelope today for “Local Church Budget.”

MISSION TAMPA BAY

Mission Tampa Bay (MTB) exists to strengthen Tampa area churches in unity and mission. Our motto is “Together we are Stronger.” We are working to show the entire Tampa area that the Seventh-day Adventist Church cares and is here to serve. You are invited to an informative event and season of prayer today at 4:00 PM at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church.

CHURCH IN BUSINESS

Tonight, 6:00 PM. Agenda: Local Church Budget for 2015.

NEXT WEEK

Speaker: Chuck Reeves

Perfect Timing

Dec 3, 2014   //   by James Johnson   //   Blog  //  No Comments

“But when the right time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.” Galatians 4:4-5.

It was December 24, 1978. I was four years old. That year we had moved to western North Carolina from Houston, Texas. We didn’t have much, but mom and dad had gotten me a brand new sled for Christmas, the kind with the metal runners on it (best kind, hands down). But on the 24th, the ground was bare.

We never got a ton of snow in that part of the country, but we got a couple good ones per year where you’d get a foot or so. Usually those came after New Year’s Day. This year, however, on Christmas morning, it came down and blanketed the ground. It was perfect timing, and a four year-old boy and his folks had a white Christmas, with a lot of sledding!

Perfect timing.

A Savior had been promised to God’s people for centuries. They longed and prayed for rescue. Then, on the right day, in the right place, at the right time, Jesus was born. While God rarely comes at our appointed time, He always comes at the right time.

All of us are waiting on something, often wondering if God has forgotten us. In your waiting, let the birth of Christ encourage you. just because God hasn’t come through (as far as you can see) doesn’t mean He has abandoned you. To Him a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day. This very minute He’s working for His glory and your good. Though circumstances say otherwise, God is going to come through, on schedule, fulfilling His long-appointed plans for you.

Don’t give up before the time is right. Take hope in Jesus and know that you are loved and prized by the God who stepped down from heaven and arrived at the perfect time for all of us.

(Some adaptation from Waiting Here for You, An Advent Journey of Hope, by Louie Giglio. Available as a Bible reading plan on the YouVersion Bible App; also at www.bible.com).

What’s Happening – Weekend of October 18, 2014

Oct 15, 2014   //   by James Johnson   //   Blog  //  No Comments

THIS WEEK

Transformers - Transformation Process

Please flip this house…flip this life for me!!! You know life is not  a TV show…it is hard work. Faith is not like wining the lottery…luck. No, faith is about commitment, choosing the right even if it is hard to do. So it is with transformation…it is a process that God helps you choose and stay focused on…day by day! What do you need to transform?

CONNECTION GROUPS

“The Book of James” – Saturdays, 10:00 AM (Classroom #1)

“Singles” – 2nd & 4th Fridays, 7:30 PM (Church)

“Healthy Meals Your Family Will Actually Eat” – 1:00 PM (Fellowship Hall) – Next meeting November 15.

“Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World” – 1:00 PM (Classroom #3)

UPCOMING

“God’s Not Dead” Movie Night – Oct 25.

Adventist Book Center “Bookmobile” at Tampa 1st SDA, Oct 27, 6:30 – 7:00 PM.

Work Bee – Nov 2, 10:00 AM – noon.

Fall Festival – Nov 8, 5:00 PM.

 

Mountaintop and Renewal

Oct 15, 2014   //   by James Johnson   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Read Luke 9:28-36

Still rubbing the sleep from his eyes, Peter sees something strange. Jesus was in the same place he had been when he closed his eyes to sleep, but everything else had changed. Bright white robes, lights from the heavens, and two men that Peter was somehow able to recognize as Moses and Elijah had entered the scene. The next thing Peter realized was that the men were beginning to leave.

The most monumental moment in history for this Jewish man and he was sleeping! He tries to salvage the moment: “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents…” Maybe if offered a camp-out Moses and Elijah would decide to stick around a bit. Even as it came from his mouth he probably realized how silly it sounded. Luke tells us he said this, “Not knowing what he said.”

It was a great spiritual moment, it was the camp high, the moment of conviction when the pastor delivered that home run sermon, the great night of worship taking your breath away…and Peter did not want to let it pass. How often we do the same thing.

We want the feeling, not the life. We crave the moment, not the endurance. We seek the high, not the sacrifice. God wants better for us. Even as Peter yammers on, the Father speaks to the moment, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”

The feelings, the moments, the high can all be great. Only the Son makes us new. Peter wanted something special; the father wanted Peter to be made into something special. When we bounce from event to event hoping it will sustain our faith, we will be disappointed every time. Those times make us feel new for a while, but God is calling us to follow Jesus and be changed for a lifetime.

Enjoying the mountain top experience is fine, but never let it take your eyes off the one who makes you new.

  • How often do we attend a conference, concert, or church service hoping for a moment like what Peter had on the hill? How long do these feelings last?
  • What can you do to keep Jesus the focus both on the mountain, and after you’ve come down?

What’s Happening – Weekend of September 27, 2014

Sep 24, 2014   //   by James Johnson   //   Blog  //  No Comments

10:00 AM, Saturday

Connection Group: “The Teachings of Jesus” – Second Coming. Classroom #1.

Child Care provided.

11:00 AM, Saturday

Worship Gathering: Simple. “Honoring God in All We Do.” Psalm 1:1-6. Dan McNab.

Carrollwood Kids Worship Gathering: Allaso Ranch. “God is the Great Teacher! I Will Use What I Learn!” Luke 4:1-15.

Following Worship Gathering

Snacks in the foyer.

Connection Groups: Tech Talks. “Photography.” Sanctuary, 1:00 PM.

Other Announcements

Other Connection Groups Information

  • Becoming a Contagious Christian. Meeting time is being adjusted. Will keep informed.
  • Singles. 2nd & 4th Friday of each month, 7:30 PM.
  • Healthy Meals Your Family Will Actually Eat. Next meeting: October 11, 1:00 PM.
  • Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. Begins October 11, 1:00 PM.

Fall Festival (Church & Community Party) – November 8, 5:00 PM.

Paper Recycling continues with the special bin in the parking lot. We are paid by the ton, proceeds going to help build a new unisex family/special needs restroom.

Coming October 4 – Simple. “Strong Relationships.” James Johnson.

What Are You Striving For?

Sep 24, 2014   //   by James Johnson   //   Blog  //  No Comments

“Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

We do what we do, ultimately, for an audience of one. Every prayer prayed, every gift given, every kind deed or act of service—none of it is in vain.

Doing things that would be rewarded in eternity motivated the apostle Paul as well, as he records in this vivid comparison of two kinds of race. In Paul’s day, instead of giving gold medals for winning first place in an Olympic event, a crown of olive or laurel leaves was placed on the winner’s head. By the time the athlete went home that night, the wreath would already be wilting and falling apart. Think of that. All that energy expended for a wreath that didn’t last beyond the day.

Paul contrasts this with putting our efforts into running a race of another kind—a race that advances the purposes of God in the world. If you enter into that race and you run hard, God will give you an imperishable wreath, an eternal crown, a reward that isn’t wilted by sundown, but that lasts forever.

Are you in the right race? Or have you accidentally drifted into a race that is mostly in vain? Are your best efforts going toward a race that results in fleeting applause? Or do you strive for material gain or for passing pleasures?

Having a life verse is one of the most powerful tools I know for simplifying your life. It keeps you on course and helps you make wise decisions about where to invest your time, energy, and gifts. It drives you to live each day with fervency and passion.

Choose a life verse and keep it ever-present in your mind. Let it empower you to run the race that matters, free of distraction. Someday, when you stand before God, your life verse will have helped you receive a crown worth keeping.

Question for reflection: Do you have a life verse? If so, what is it and why did you claim it as your own?

(Adapted from the Simplify 10 day devotional available through the YouVersion Bible app, and from Simplify by Bill Hybels).

Being Content

Sep 18, 2014   //   by James Johnson   //   Blog  //  No Comments

“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13).

Here the apostle Paul unpacks the key to contentment. To paraphrase, he says, “I make adjustments as needed and live beneath God’s provision level… I build some margin between my spending and God’s provision, and that margin leads to contentment, which leads to peace.”

God’s provision may include some ups and downs over the course of your lifetime. Job changes, the economic climate, decisions you make and decisions made by others, and sometimes just good or bad timing will all affect your provision levels. It is our responsibility to make adjustments so we can live within God’s provision and be content whether He provides a little or a lot in any given season.

This belief comes with some implications. For starters, when God increases someone else’s provision, do you covet it? Do you become envious? Do you get angry and ask, “Why him and not me? Why her and not me?” Or are you able to say—and mean it—“Hey, you got a raise. I’m happy for you. You got a better-paying job. God increased your level of provision, and I’m glad.” Can you do that?

You will only know true financial peace when you learn to live joyfully beneath God’s provision in every season of your life. Far too many sincere, God-loving Christ followers spend more than what God has chosen to provide. They incur large amounts of debt and experience the shame and pressure that accompanies it. And they wind up feeling overwhelmed.

Friend, God wants something better for you. Simplifying your life means diligently living within God’s provision for you and diligently working to free yourself from whatever debt you carry. Whether you’re in a season of plenty or in a season of less, you can live with contentment and peace.

Question for reflection: Are you living within God’s provision for you? If not, can you drive a stake in the ground and say, “Beginning today, I commit to living joyfully within God’s current provision for my life”?

(Adapted from Simplify, by Bill Hybels… also available on the Bible App, through YouVersion).

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