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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).

Patching Adam’s Heart

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

I read a devotional yesterday by Eric C. Redmond at Christianity Today (original link is here: I adapted this somewhat to be able to read quickly, but I truly appreciate what is said here. Having experienced depression and some of its outflows, it’s really important for each of us to realize that (1) we aren’t alone, and related to this, (2) we often don’t realize who around us is going through it (neither do they often realize when it’s you). Church is an interesting place sometimes. We show up, smile, shake hands, and act like we’re OK when we know we’re anything but. We don’t want to sound whiny or weigh others down with our junk, or we don’t want it made public. Here’s the adapted devotional that I read about this and found quite helpful:

It’s only been a few weeks since we learned of the tragic news that actor and comedian Robin Williams had taken his own life. We wonder to ourselves how someone who seemed so full of life and happiness could have struggled with depression—and that to the degree that he could take his own life. Clearly, the significance of the emotional state of one’s heart may not be obvious to others’ sight. Proverbs tell us why.

First, a person’s emotional state might be accessible only to its owner. “The heart knows its own bitterness and no stranger shares its joy” (Prov. 14:10). It is germane to human existence to hide our pains and sins. Hiding sin began in the Garden; hiding our pains is an unfortunate fruit of the entrance of sin into the world. Because someone may take advantage of our failings and use them to manipulate us to their own ends, we guard our hearts. Tragically, therefore, wounds and fears that need healing from the love of others stay buried in the recesses of our overprotected souls. In wisdom, we should not assume a happy face means someone else is doing well either.

Second, a person’s true emotions might be hidden behind temporary joy or laughter. “Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief” (Prov. 14:13). Seemingly something similar to this was true for the depressed comedian. While making all of us roar with laughter at a father dressing in drag in order to be with his children, deep within the man hid an aching heart. Many within our daily spheres of influence do the same, needing for someone with the compassion of Christ to get past their walls of avoidance.

Third, what is taking place inside of a person emotionally might only be evidenced in one’s physical health. “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot” (Prov. 14:30). Treating chemical imbalances contributing to clinical depression with medicine is good and necessary. It also is important to recognize that negative emotions, such as envy, work against giving us peace. Often it is only when physical factors portray themselves outwardly can we get a clue that all might not be well in the heart.

A heart fully satisfied with God is that for which we all should strive. It is wise to protect our heart – our emotions – from as much ill and evil as we can in this fallen world. Yet it is even wiser to pour out our hurts to Christ and to those who can offer his comfort. Christ is the one who said “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Mt. 11:28-30).

In Jesus, we can remove our masks and make our hearts known to him. We can say to him, “I’m angry,” “I’m scared,” “I hate the way I’m being treated,” “I’m, tired of being alone,” or, “I just feel like I can’t take anymore of this!” As the one who was mistreated above all others, who beheld more pain than any sinner, and who forgave those who angered him by their rebellion, Jesus can bear whatever emotion we throw at him with sympathy and empathy. He will not break our trust, or abuse our pain. He will patch up the pains caused by the children of Adam. He offers the joy of his love to provide the rest we need in our hearts.

Who can you talk with if you are depressed? Have you sought help? Could you be the help someone else needs? What can the church do to help people in depression?

What’s Happening – August 30, 2014

Aug 26, 2014   //   by James Johnson   //   Blog  //  No Comments


Worship Gathering: “Skywriters: Friend Over Fraud.” Speaker: James Johnson. 11:00 AM (Main Sanctuary)

Carrollwood Kids: “Allaso Ranch: God is Creative, so I Can Be Creative!” Ephesians 2:10. 11:00 AM (Fellowship Hall)


“Teachings of Jesus” – Saturdays, 10:00 AM (Classroom #1). This week: “Our Mission” (Matthew 24:14)

“Tech Talks” – Saturdays, 1:00 PM (Sanctuary)

“Becoming a Contagious Christian” – Tuesdays, 6:30 PM (Pastor’s Office)

“Singles” – 2nd & 4th Fridays of each month,

“Healthy Meals Your Family Will Actually Eat” – Begins Sep. 20, 1:30 PM (Fellowship Hall)


For Yasmin & Derek Richardson, Sep. 7, 2:00 PM, (Fellowship Hall)

NEXT WEEK (September 6, 2014)

Chuck Reeves, speaker.

Developing Fruit

Aug 26, 2014   //   by James Johnson   //   Blog  //  No Comments

As Christians, we often want things to happen instantly. Yet the fruit of the Spirit tends to be more developmental than we have patience for. The fruit seen in Jesus’ disciples came after quite a growth process.

Think of it like locks on a canal. The canal operates to move ships inot a closed space called a lock. One body of water is lower than the next one the ship is moving to. Gradually, by the ship going uphill or downhill, it moves through a sequence of locks. Each of the locks fills up with water and floats the ship higher, or the lock empties and the ship floats lower.

Developing in the Holy Spirit is a lot like that. Beginning with love, we progress until we’ve moved all the way through and come at last to the hardest fruit to develop—self-control.

The fruit of the Spirit tells us that God is concerned with who we are. If you’re looking for God’s will for your life, don’t look first at where He wants you to go or what He wants you to do. Look at who He wants you to be. If you’re that person, you can go anywhere and do anything, knowing that He is guiding you!

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” (Galatians 5:22)

When the Spirit Falls on You

Aug 20, 2014   //   by James Johnson   //   Blog  //  1 Comment

In a world full of moral relativism, cultural decadence, and spiritual apathy, there exists good news: the Holy Spirit still moves. He still convicts, still reveals Jesus, and still works to help us grow in Jesus.

When God’s Spirit descends, everything changes.

When the spirit fell, Joseph stood recognized and came out of his pit, causing Pharaoh to ask, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?”

When the Spirit fell, the Israelites listened to Joshua—enabling them to conquer.

When the Spirit fell, Saul became a different person.

When the Spirit falls on you, he empowers you to come out of the pit, prophesy, and become a new person.

Ask for the Spirit to fall on you this week, and get ready! You will function under your anointing, you will win the battle, and all things that have held you back will be broken.

Rise up! Walk in the power of God’s Spirit… walk like Enoch, believe like Abraham, dress like Joseph, stretch like Moses, shout like Joshua, dance like David, fight like Gideon, pray like Daniel, build like Nehemiah… and live like Jesus!

… “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the Lord of hosts…” (Zechariah 4:6).

Sermon Notes & Feedback: Skywriters – When the System Fails

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

Key Text: Revelation 14:8

Three Key Questions

  1. Who is Babylon, and what is she doing?
  2. What is Babylon trying to do to me?
  3. How can I escape what Babylon is trying to do?

Who is Babylon and what is she doing?

Who is she?

  • Read Genesis 11:1-9. Babel means _________.
  • Babel represents the elevation of self and self-reputation.
  • Read 2 Kings 24-25. Babylon conquered and captured God’s people and destroyed Jerusalem.
  • In this context, Babylon is confusion. She is any man-made system that surrounds God’s people and seeks to destroy His worship. That system exalts self (self-reputation), but really anything that can be a substitute for the true God.

What is she doing?

  • Revelation 14:8 – she “made all _______ drink of the ____ of the _____ of her ___________.”
  • Nations.
    • In the Old Testament, Gentiles, or anyone that was not a part of God’s people.
    • In the New Testament, Israel was a name applied to God’s people of any nationality, or anyone who followed Jesus Christ. Nations were those who did not follow Jesus Christ.
  • “… wine of the wrath.” Another way of translating this is the “wine of her passion.”
  • What is fornication?
    • Illicit sex. Cheating. Anything outside of God’s ideal for sex.
    • This is something spiritual, however. It is unfaithfulness (see Ezekiel 15:6-8, and Hosea, where unfaithfulness is condemned and illustrated in the life of Hosea, yet still with the possibility to repent and turn to God).
    • Unfaithfulness to God was practiced in idolatry and in “forgetting” the Sabbath. God’s people were unfaithful in that they broke the first four commandments (Exodus 20:1-11).
  • What is Babylon doing? She is making the nations (those that do not accept Jesus) that surround God’s people passionately cheat on God. In the context of Revelation 14:6-7…
    • Disrespect God.
    • Glorify things other than God (such as self).
    • Disregard His justice and judgments.
    • Worship something other than God, or even worship God in ways He did not direct and for reasons other than what Scripture calls us to worship for. The Bible calls us to worship, in short, because God is Creator and Sustainer, Rescuer and Redeemer.

What is Babylon trying to do to me?

Everything Babylon does to nations she tries to do to me as an individual.

  • If I am a disciple, I am a follower of Jesus.
  • I am a disciple, I am part of the Church, among other disciples (God’s people).
  • The Church is surrounded by nations that already, by and large, operate in confusion, reject Jesus Christ, and (knowingly or not) passionately cheat on God.

How do I know if I’m being influenced by Babylon?

  • Do I pursue pleasure or God’s purpose? Comfort or sacrifice? Do I love anyone, (myself, or even my family) to the point of rejecting Jesus Christ’s calling(s) in my life?
  • Am I blindly following a system—any system—without searching the Scriptures for myself?
  • Do I think that a label or a cause—a church label, a national label, etc.—is the ultimate pursuit?
  • Do I unquestioningly follow an individual’s teachings? A teacher, evangelist, preacher, even a loved one?
  • Have I received Jesus Christ, or am I trying to save myself by what I do?
  • Do I respect God? Am I in awe of Him? Do I use His Name as I should?
  • To whom, or to what, do I give the most glory in my life? Am I shining the light on myself and my accomplishments, the greatness of another person or a nation? Or am I shining what light I have on Jesus Christ: who He is, how great He is, and what He is doing in my life and in the world?
  • Am I worshipping God alone? Am I worshipping as He has directed me to do so in the Bible, or am I worshipping the way a system or a group has told me to worship? Am I worshipping for the right reasons (what motivates my worship)?

How do I escape? How can I stop drinking Babylon’s wine?

  • Search the Scriptures daily (Acts 17:11).
  • Deny self (die to self) and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23).
  • Take steps to stop drinking…
  1. Admit you are _________ against Babylon.
  2. _______ in Jesus Christ.
  3. Decide to turn your ____ and ____ over to Jesus Christ.
  4. Make a fearless moral _________ of yourself based on Biblical principles and values.
  5. Admit to yourself, to God, and another human being the exact nature of your ______.
  6. Decide your are ready to let God ______ these defects of character.
  7. Ask God to remove your ___________.
  8. Make a list of anyone, including Jesus, that you have hurt and be willing to ____ ______.
  9. Make ______ amends.
  10. Continue taking a fearless _____ _________.
  11. Seek through prayer and meditation to improve your conscious _______ with God.
  12. Carry the message of _____ to others.


My Next Step

__ Lord, I put my trust in You alone for my salvation.

__ Lord, I will worship You and cling to you, with joy, no matter what.

What else is God teaching you today? How will you respond?

Patience, My Child

Aug 5, 2014   //   by James Johnson   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Patience is not my virtue. It’s virtue, but it seems to have alluded me.

It seems like I used to have more of it. Dad once complimented me as I dutifully helped grandpa when we went to a restaurant together. I remember it was just the three of us, and in Texas when guys go eat together, it’s usually for Mexican food. That day it was Pancho’s (about all there was in Tyler at the time). Grandpa was in a wheelchair, and before that couldn’t walk very fast. I would stroll along with him, help him with his order, etc. Dad told me right then and there how amazed he was at my patience (something he may have less of than I do even).

As I’ve gotten older, it seems like I’ve gotten less patient. Not good. Yesterday I snapped at my son when he was being, in my estimation, to whiny. Maybe he was being too whiny, but that’s no reason to snap the way I did. It hurt his feelings. He seemed to get over it pretty quickly and went back to playing, but I still don’t like what I did at all.

I hope I haven’t done that to God. Psalm 37:7 says, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.” But I want to fret and worry for some dumb reason! I want justice and I want it now! Is there a reason to wait?

How about this one: “For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering” (Romans 8:16-17, NLT). Well, that means wait again. Waiting will bring about suffering, because the world doesn’t like who we are allied with in Christ. So, wait and share in the suffering so you share in the glory as well. To avoid the suffering (taking matters into my own hands rather than focusing on Jesus and leaving the justice to him) is to avoid the glory. There’s nothing I can do that’s worth glorifying in anyway… it has to be Him!

Why wait? Why be patient?

“But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”

Perhaps the most important thing about waiting… being patient with God… is that it gives us the opportunity to show the goodness of God. Really, that’s why we exist as Christ-followers anyway. To take matters into our own hands, if it succeeds, highlights our goodness. To follow Jesus, even if we have to wait for Him to move, highlights His goodness. Who are we called to highlight anyway?

I love this, from Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young:

“Sit quietly in my Presence while I bless you… Rest in My sufficiency as you consider the challenges this day presents. Do not wear yourself out by worrying about whether you can cope with the pressures. Keep looking to Me and communicating with Me as we walk through this day together.
“Take time to rest by the wayside, for I am not in a hurry… When you rush, you forget who you are and Whose you are. Remember that you are royalty in My kingdom.”

What are the pressures you are facing? What harm could come from you “taking over” where God should be in charge? Conversely, what benefits could result from waiting and patience?

What does it mean to you that Jesus “is not in a hurry”?

What will it take for you to slow down today?

Father, make me to slow down. Make me to rest by Your still waters and bask in Your Presence. Open my mind to receive whatever you want to place there. Renew my strength, Lord. Amen.

For All to See

Jul 30, 2014   //   by James Johnson   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Distracted drivers are dangerous.

It doesn’t matter what the distraction is. If you are looking at something other than the road, you’re looking at the wrong thing! This isn’t a write-out to cell phone users and text fiends of the road, however. This is a confession of sorts. I have come close from being distracted before, close to hitting something. Actually, just as I was thinking about something I had to do one day, I rear-ended someone. No damage, but I felt pretty stupid. Just a few months ago, I got nailed by a nurse who had a rough day in the ICU at the hospital.

Distracted driving takes many forms. Have you ever driven through Orlando and looked up to see the sky writers? I don’t know of anything much more distracting than that. Those letters get written out slowly, so you keep looking up from time to time to see what’s being written. Years ago, it was just an advertisement for “Rosie’s.” But as you’re driving, that’s a pretty big distraction! Yes, I’ve come close from looking at that stuff!

Sky writers are doing a pretty good job of getting your attention, though. There is nothing more visible than a word or two in big letters in the middle of the blue sky for hundreds of thousands to see at the same time.

It makes me think about a passage I’m preaching on this weekend… Revelation 14:6-7. “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”

This is a message that has to be seen by all. It’s sky writing on steroids. It’s not just to be seen, but heard by everyone. Imagine if those airplanes with the wispy letters trailing behind them also had bullhorns that you could hear on the ground (OK, that would be kind of scary). But it’s not an advertisement hawking a product or a service or a restaurant in town. It’s the most important news the world could possibly hear.

It’s the gospel.

“Fear God.” Is this to be afraid of or in awe of? Depends on who you are allied with. To be with God is to be in awe. To be away from Him is to be afraid of. The word can mean either thing, actually.

“Give Him glory.” Shine the light on God. Illuminate Him. The most important attention in the most important message is to that which we place on God.

“The hour of His judgment…” The word for judgment is “krisis” in the Greek. It means to separate right from wrong, to set things right. It is related to “justice.” This is a great word for God’s people. In the Bible, God’s justice and judgments are seen as a great thing to His people, something to be happy about.

“Worship.” Literally, this means to “kiss the hand of,” or “bow down to,” or “pay homage to.” Why?

“… who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.” Because He is Creator!

Strangely enough, and not coincidentally I think, this kind of language that John uses is a bit familiar.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”

OK, I don’t want to get lost in this, but John was writing to some of the first Christian churches in existence. They were scattered about throughout the Roman Empire. Many in the church were Jews who would have known the Scriptures, which to them would correlate to what we call the Old Testament today. This was a church that, when they got together, they were under some serious risk. Christianity was considered a threat to the Empire. One of their distinguishing marks was when they gathered. Now, earlier in the New Testament (Acts especially), we get the impression they gathered every day. Later, Paul would tell them to set aside an offering on the first day of the week so that when got there it would be ready, but that wasn’t telling them anything about their worship gatherings that I can see (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). Acts 20 talks about the disciples coming together to break bread on the first day… still not addressing any change in their worship practices (Jews were used to gathering on the Sabbath for worship and study in the synagogues). Acts 17 shows Paul getting together in a synagogue with Jews on three consecutive Sabbaths to reason with them about the truth of Jesus. I can only assume from all of what I see that followers of Jesus celebrated Jesus every day and fellowshipped with each other, including the first day, but that they were still used to keeping the Sabbath holy as a day of worship. I can only assume that the church was still doing this when John wrote The Revelation of Jesus Christ to them. I can only assume that to do so was to put themselves at risk. I can only assume that if John had directly mentioned Sabbath in Revelation 14:7, he might as well have told the Empire when they could find the largest concentration of Christians to persecute.

Again, not wanting to miss the forest for the trees… but worship is a pretty big tree! Worship is not something we really have the right to just make up our own paradigm for in every respect. Worship is based in Biblical principle. When we do it. What we do. To some degree at least, how we do it. We read and teach the Word. We sing. We lift up God and His greatness and love, especially as it is seen in Jesus. We exhort and admonish in love. We give testimony. In the Bible, it is even appropriate to speak in tongues (if there’s an interpreter and if it’s done in an orderly manner).

Most importantly, we do this because of Him. He created everything we need for existence itself. He created us in His image. Jesus died for us, the righteous lamb who takes away our sins. He rose again, showing the way for another resurrection day. Even now, He is seen by the Father, covering the sins of those who have taken on the garment of His righteousness.

What makes you most in awe of God today?

How can you put the spotlight on Him (and not yourself), highlighting what makes you so in awe of Him?

In your personal life, how can you venerate (worship) God today?

When you gather, what can you do (yourself and as a group) to worship God with gusto and enthusiasm? In spirit and in truth?

What difference does this angel’s message make to you?

Not Finished, Yet Complete

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

It’s always that one fork.

You know what it’s like to get everything in the kitchen clean, put away, and you’re just about to get out of there when you see it. The fork. It’s still dirty. The dishwasher is full and started, the dishwater is drained, but that fork!

What do you do? Do you leave it for the next washing? Put a whole bunch of soap onto it and wash it off? Stop the dishwasher and jam it in there where it really doesn’t fit? Look around to see if anyone’s watching, runs it off, dry it aggressively, and throw it back into the drawer (ew!)?

When I start the job, when I determine to get something done, I hate to find something that reminds me that I’m not done yet (especially when I thought I was).

Paul is determined to leave nothing incomplete. OK, I know that may seem a lame comparison. The stakes are much higher with the Church. But if there was one left incomplete that could have been complete, Paul would have a hard time with that.

As I read and considered Ephesian 3:14-19, I was struck by a man who did not want anything left incomplete. The passage is a revealing to the Church what Paul is praying for them about.

There is context. Ephesians 3:1-13 tells us what Paul is thinking about (“When I think of all this…” in verse 14). This tells us two things (in summary): (1) God’s plan to extend grace to all, Jew and Gentile; (2) God’s purpose to use the church to reveal His plan and wisdom… grace to all, and His accessibility in Christ.

Then, in verse 14-19, the desire is for the plan and purpose to be complete. If you go back to John 10:10, you’ll read what I like to call Jesus’ personal mission statement: “My purpose is to give them (My sheep) a rich and satisfying life” (NLT). Other versions say “life to the fullest.” Paul, in Ephesians 3:19, writes, “Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life.”

And what is completeness?

(1) Grow in God’s love. Paul writes his wish, that “Your roots will grow down into God’s love.” Roots allow trees to grow and to stand against all kinds of weather. Roots bring nourishment from soil and water. Roots anchor the tree in the soil. The soil has to carry quality of nourishment and be solid itself. Lots of trees topple if the topsoil they are anchored in slide away.

To grow in anything other than the love of God is to grow into sloppy, shoddy soil. One of the big messages of the three angels has to do with who you worship… who your roots are growing in, as it were. If your roots are growing high, wide, deep, and long in His love, you are going to be solid… complete. If your roots grow in anything that diverts your attention from God’s love, even things that appear to be good and worthy and “Godly,” you’re bound for a fall.

(2) Understand the dimensions of God’s love. Paul is pretty clear that no one can completely understand the love itself, but we can understand its dimension–heigh, depth, length, width–the solid soil for our roots.

It’s more than what feels good. It’s what makes us live to the fullest. It’s seeing God’s love in the entirety of Scripture, even those things that seem boring, that seem cruel, that seems difficult (or even legalistic on the surface). God’s love is in all of it, and it’s in everything He created.

(3) Experience God’s love. It’s the first time you give yourself over entirely to Christ. It’s the first time you get a glimpse of His sacrifice. It’s the first time you lead someone to Christ. It’s the first time you understand His love in the midst of the most trying of circumstances (see: Paul in prison, John on Patmos, the Church in persecution that sticks it out anyway…). Are you able to experience the love of God in Christ in anything? Do you look for it at all times and in all circumstances?

God’s love is for all! His grace is for all! And all can grow, understand the dimensions of, and experience God’s love!

How is this real in life? (This is where chiming in with discussion can really help someone, by the way.)

How do you picture God?

If you know rejection and pain in your relationships, how can you come to understand God’s love in a personal way?

If you know injustice at work, how can you grow your roots in God’s love?

If you know bullying at school, how can experience God’s love? If it’s your child being bullied, how can you help your child experience God’s love in a personal way? OK, let’s make that one tougher yet… how can you help the bully experience God’s love?

What do you pay attention to (or worship) in your life? The difficulty, or God’s love? The rules, or the love the rules are there for? Are you paying attention to anything but the cross?

Praying today that you grow, understand (as best you can), and experience the great love of God in Christ today!

Not Alone

Jun 10, 2014   //   by James Johnson   //   Blog  //  3 Comments

“I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” (John 1:9)

No one likes to be by themselves.

I was helping out with the training for the youth and collegiate staff at Camp Kulaqua (in Gainesville, Florida) for the Southern Union Academy Prayer Conference (a Seventh-day Adventist gathering of high school students for the purpose of learning about prayer and how to be servant leaders in their lives). My parents were there helping out too. We were in a “chalet,” while they were in their RV right next to us. One day, I put my young kids down to take a nap. I told them that while they were doing this, I would be going to Gran and Grandpa’s RV to get something. I went over, got something to drink, chatted for no more than 5 minutes with them, and headed back. Literally, we were less than 50 feet away. As I approached the chalet, I heard the familiar little voice of my daughter pitifully talking to two high school students they had never met: “Daddy left us here! Will you take care of us?” My son, only about 3 at the time, was crying.

After explaining what was going on to the high schoolers, they laughed and went on their way. The kids calmed down and felt a bit silly for being so upset. But the truth was obvious… they did not want to be alone for even a moment!

Neither do I. I read about what people across the globe are going through for the sake of the gospel… for the sake of Jesus and God’s Word… and I shudder. I shudder to consider dads separated from their wives and kids and thrown into jail and tortured for not letting go of Jesus. I shudder as I think of children ripped away from moms and dads. I shudder to consider the heads of Christians being cut off in places where to worship anything other than the local religious deity is punishable by death. 

Yet we are not alone.

John wrote as one being persecuted to a church being persecuted. He was in exile, His eyewitness of Jesus and His faith in and adherence to God’s Word being seen as a threat to the Jewish religious institution and the Roman Empire. The church was being viciously attacked because of the same, Christians being tortured, burned, thrown to lions, etc.

If I was in a church in the middle of the Empire, several days walk from the next place, and I was being beaten up for my faith, I might feel discouraged and alone. But here comes this message from John, a founding father in The Way. He says they are not alone.

“I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus…”

He calls himself their brother. He is one of them. Not above. Not below. But one of them, of the same lineage. He is part of this “priesthood of all believers” where there are no Jews, Gentiles, slave, free, male, female… no distinction of rank or order… for they are one in Jesus.

He is a participant with them in the same terrible sufferings they were going through. But he is one who suffers with hope. He is one who says, “Press together in the face of this suffering! Put up with it with me, your brother! I’ve seen Jesus! I know what He can do and Who He is! I know He keeps His promises and that He is Messiah, King of the Universe! This will pass, and something much better… the Kingdom!… is just around the corner!”

I am not alone.

I may suffer insult and condescension from within the church. I am not alone.

I may be unfairly criticized, but I am not alone.

I may have to do things I’d rather not do, confront people I’d rather not confront, but I am not alone.

I may be called old fashioned if I try to be faithful to the sufficiency of God’s Word, but I am not alone.

I may one day not be able to buy or sell, but I am not alone.

I may miss out on stuff when Sabbath rolls around and I choose to follow God rather than my own inclinations, but I am not alone.

I may be beaten one day, persecuted, or God-forbid, have my own family snatched away from me because of my faith… but I am not alone.

We cannot think of ourselves as believers on an island (not in the sense that John put it, but doing life and worship by ourselves). We need each other. We need to connect with each other, develop each other and with each other into the transformed people God wants us to be. We need each other if we’ll ever last in this faith. The early church proved that to us already.

Don’t hesitate to connect with someone today, a fellow believer perhaps. Pray with them. Do something with them to serve others. Read the Bible together and hold each other accountable.

We are not alone. Let’s not act as though we are. Let’s find each other and connect and pray and serve and study and grow. I’d hate to think that if trouble really comes that we’d ask the wrong people to take care of us.


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